Pandora – The Identity Thief

imgresSo, here’s how it all went down:  I was early for an appointment in San Francisco, so I stopped off for a cappuccino at this run-down little joint called Wicked Grounds. (I know, I know, I should have known better, and I did,  I swear, but my distended bladder made other decisions.) Supposedly, this place is some kind of kink palace by night. I personally have a hard time imagining how well cock rings and coffee interrelate, but who am I to judge?  (The coffee was terrible, by the way, I do not recommend it.)  The chipper young lady behind the counter asked me how I was doing.  I responded that I was quite well, thank you.  And, of course, polite midwestern bloke that I am, I inquired as to her well-being.  She said, and I quote, “Anytime I can come into work and listen to music like this, it’s a good day.”  So far so good.  I listened for a moment… it sounded familiar… so I asked who the artist was.  (Now here’s where it gets dicey.)  She said, “I don’t know, it’s Pandora.”

Let’s try that a few different ways:

I don’t fucking know, it’s Pandora.

I don’t know, it’s fucking Pandora.

Fuck, I don’t know, it’s Pandora.

Each time, the statement has a slightly different connotation, but one thing remains: Pandora.

Pandora’s whole thing is supposedly giving artists an avenue to a larger audience.  I cannot tell you the amount of times, however, that I have walked into a cafe, heard something I liked, asked the person at the counter who it was, and heard the inane response quoted above.  The artist being played in Wicked Grounds, by the way, was The Pogues  (I figured it out after the lyrics kicked in) who just happen to have been one of the most inspirational bands of the 80’s.  They played a frenetic hybrid of punk and traditional Irish music with a lead singer (Shane MacGowan) that was one part Cormac McCarthy, two parts rye whiskey, and a hefty shot of 50 grit sandpaper. The original name of the band was Pogue Mahone, which was Gaelic for “kiss my arse”.  Right?… My kind of band.  I, of course, informed the nice barista as to the identity of the artist and went back to my table to finish my sludge-o-cino. (She did not seem to much care.) The next artist was Van Morrison and the Chieftans. The next was Richard Thompson. The next was a cool band called Cordelia’s Dad. The next was The Waterboys. I sat there falling into a deeper and deeper depression because I knew, in my soul, that, were I to ask, “Who is this?”, the answer would be : Pandora.

Time was folks would pride themselves on knowing an artist when they heard them.  We’d wait until the radio DJ would finish a set so that we could hear who the artists were, so that we could go out and buy their records, so that we could hear it again, so that we could play it for our friends, etc.  So what is going on now?  Here’s what I think.  Pandora (and Spotify for that matter) is the devil.  And it is stealing artists’ identities.

Picture this, if you will, as contrast:

Bjork.

Bjork in her home in Whateverthefuck, Iceland, where it is cold.

Bjork going through the most painful break-up of her adult life.

Bjork chronicling it all in brittle, heart-wrenching, lyrical form.

Bjork working by candlelight, writing, with a quill, all of the beautiful string arrangements that would adorn these lyrics. (I made up the candlelight part for effect. Well, the quill too…)

Bjork reliving all of the moments of this painful experience through the catharsis that is her art.

Bjork carefully recording what would be the stunning Vulnicura and releasing these utterly personal moments into the world like so many pieces of her soul.

Now, Bjork is being played at a cafe and the barista says, “I don’t know, it’s Pandora.”

See what I mean? Wouldn’t it piss you off if you poured your heart and soul into a project for freakin’ YEARS, and you heard someone say , “I don’t know, it’s Pandora.” Wouldn’t you want to throw your coffee across the room and scream, “No!  It is not Pandora! It is me! Me I say! This person residing in this skin, standing here all human and shit.  It is not Pandora! They have simply stolen it from me and given it to you lame-asses for free!  I now have to work at Home Depot just to pay my rent whilst Pandora execs are out in their freakin’ yachts, martini in hand, gnawing on pieces of my arm with their fat, ugly teeth!”

…or something like that…

Bjork’s new album is a beautiful statement reflecting the transfiguration of pain into art.  She, wisely, kept it off of Pandora and Spotify. Here’s what she had to say, “Guess what? This streaming thing just does not feel right. I don’t know why, but it just seems insane,'” Björk said. “To work on something for two or three years and then just, ‘Oh, here it is for free.’ It’s not about the money; it’s about respect, you know? Respect for the craft and the amount of work you put into it.”

Thank you Bjork.

I’m one of those artists that Pandora and Spotify and their demonic ilk are claiming to help with their services.  That is simply this:  a bunch of crap. Those services are just a way to devalue art while simultaneously filling the devil’s pocketbook. I pulled my stuff off of every streaming service I possibly could. I wonder what would happen if we all did that.  How long could they survive without artist’s arms to gnaw on. I, personally, like to picture this:

Police have been summoned to a penthouse suite due to an ungodly stench.  Breaking down the door, they find a dried up cadaver. Gripped in its leathery skeletal hand is a remote. On the stereo, a disembodied voice repeats the following: “Sorry, that selection is not available.” The officers take in the scene: humeri, radii, and ulnae scraped clean and scattered pell mell on the Persian rug.  Records and cd’s with the bizarre markings that reek of voodoo and the dark arts. They examine the corpse and one cop asks: Who is this guy? And the other replies: “I don’t know.”  He points to the stereo and says, “But that is Pandora.”

Under the Radar – 2014

I am, at this very moment, listening to one of my picks for this here 2014 list.  It is Pere Ubu’s new cd. I’ve been listening to Pere Ubu since, oh, about 1979.  They are still great.  Now, I realize that I have posted jack-shit since about a year ago. I have really great excuses for that, which are none of your damn business.  However, what is, and should be your business is the incredibly fine music that has been unleashed into the airwaves this past year.  Despite the fact that the music industry is one of the most fucked up, culturally displaced, ignorant, pimp-ified, degrading, demoralizing, and generally criminal agencies in the western world, artists (and labels with a modicum of dignity) have continued to defy expectations and release music that surprises, thrills, and, for me at least, bolsters my belief that human beings should not, after all, push themselves to extinction. Here is what I do when I am depressed:  I go into my office where I house most of my cd’s, I look around at all of that recorded music, and I say to myself, “Wow”, I say, “that is a lot of great art… Humanity should not die off.”  That is what I do. you should try it. It works. I realize that you are saying to yourself, “God, lacunamusic-guy, just shut up about all of your pseudo-philosophical bullshit and tell me what to buy.”  To that I say this: Sometimes, dear reader, one needs to wade through another’s bullshit in order to get to their essence.  This is something you will not be able to do on Twitter. To your life on Twitter, I say this: Stop it.  You are destroying your attention span. Shut off your phone and listen to a whole cd, lp, download (if that is your bag)… listen to it in its entirety.  That is the artist’s message to you.  It cannot be assimilated in 100 characters or less.  It needs to be taken as a whole.  Give your time to another human being. I’m about to list a whole shitload of cool albums. Don’t, for God’s sake, just listen  to soundbites.  Hear them out.  Listen until it gets through to you. You may decide you don’t like their message, but you will have grown, in your soul, by giving them the time and the space.

Alright?  Alright.

Herein lies the LIST: (in no particular order, just the one that was most convenient)

imgresPere Ubu – Carnival of Souls

How is it that David Thomas has not changed a bit in the past almost 50 years? How is it that I am surprised by each and every release by this dude? I saw him a couple of years ago at a warehouse space in Oakland. All by himself; him and his bandoneon. He also had Ralph Carney to verbally abuse and collaborate with.  (Ralph shows up at almost every show I see in the Bay Area. He always has his horn. He somehow seems to make it up on the stage. It is a mystery.) Somehow, he (Thomas) gripped us all in his world of existential blues. Even if you don’t agree with his philosophy, you can’t deny that he is on to something. This album, like the first album I heard by Pere Ubu (The Modern Dance), makes me smile and shake my head in disbelief  at every turn. Thomas and his merry band of miscreants have created another masterpiece of Dada-istic, bizarre musicality. It is beautiful in its craggy sincerity.

10846223_10153414040616110_2976771578521010518_nMyles Boisen – Past- Present- Future (2) {Abstractions and Blood Red Blues}

I’ll admit… this one is personal.  I really like Myles.  I’d like you to first gaze at the blurry photo of him on the cover of this fine (fine) cd.  He may hate this, but to me, this perfectly represents Myles’ incredible humility.  Perpetually the guy adding tasteful licks, outstanding production, and ridiculously perfect solos to others’ work, Myles has a propensity to avoid the foreground.  Here, thank the gods, he has decided to fade into the foreground.  I could not put it more perfectly than Mr. Chris Grady: “Myles definitely shines here in a huge way, but he also goes wayyy wayyy deep on this one and pulls out the most beautifully stark, dark, blood-red, tear your soul out, solos here. Just put the needle down on “The Mean Texas Wind” and feel your jaw drop and the nerve endings shoot out of the pores of your skin… It hurts to move and then brings immense pleasure at the same time. This is the real deal folks….” Yes, Chris.  So very, very true.  Myles not only puts on display his compositional genius, but also his deep knowledge and assimilation of music history.  It’s all there. Stunning record. Brilliant all around.

imgresMinus 5 – Scott the Hoople in the Dungeon of Horror

Did the reference to Mott the Hoople escape you?  If so, please hit the little “x” on the window tab in your browser now.  You should not be here.  You have made a terrible mistake and ended up on this blog by some hideous accident.  If you are still reading, then you know Scott McCaughey’s pedigree and are probably getting all wet in the underdrawers at the thought of a (brace yourself) 5-LP set of unreleased material.  Scott’s reference to the late, great band of Sir Ian Hunter only  serves to reify the value of this fine collection of music. Each album is a world of its own, yet the whole thing holds together… well… like everything McCaughey has ever ventured to touch.  If you are already a fan of the Young Fresh Fellows or The Minus Five, this is a special treat. If you are not, do yourself a favor and go listen to it.  One of the best “pop” songwriters out there.  He’s funny, touching, smart, and has a knack for creating the earworm you don’t mind living with for a day.  Fine stuff.

imgresCarla Bozulich – Boy

This is the album that made me stop writing about music.  I’m just sort of kidding.  As soon as it took the first spin in my cd player I realized that this is one that somehow defies words.  Carla has penned some songs here that flow straight from the netherworlds of the soul, foreign and so familiar.  They are perfect specimens, stripped of all varnish.  I’d say this is pert near perfect as albums go. It is timeless, intelligent, musical beyond your wildest expectations; yet deep and impenetrable. About many albums that appear in virtually everyone’s top ten for the year, I avoid like the plague.  This one is an exception. For this one I pump my skinny fists and say, “Yes.” Absolutely deserving of any and all praise from anyone anywhere.  Five fuckin’ huge stars for this one.

imgresJoe Henry – Invisible Hour

Joe Henry should be making it into everyone’s list everywhere.  An American treasure is this man.  Invisible Hour is just one more entry into an already stellar discography.  With each and every new recording, Henry continues to blossom into one of the greatest songwriters this here US of A has yet to produce.  Henry has a way of bringing a deep sense of humanity into all of his albums. Listening to his music almost always touches the same poignant spots in my spirit as Steinbeck.  The music is spacious, and smoky; the lyrics perfect.  Henry is a writer’s writer.  To attempt to pen words that encapsulate human experience is perhaps one of the most difficult of endeavors. Henry makes it appear effortless.  For instance:

I take all this to be holy

If futile, uncertain and dire

Our union of fracture, our dread everlasting
This beautiful, desperate desire. (Grave Angels)

Dear Lord, how could this be more beautiful, and true.  You can listen to Joe Henry for mellifluous melodies, you can listen to Henry for poetry that rubs right up against the very fabric of what it means to be in this human skin, or you can listen to Henry for the absolutely stunning musicianship and perfect arrangements. But, for God’s sake, listen to Henry.

 

imgresPort Mone – Thou

I was first exposed to Port Mone through an utterly amazing Ukrainian band called DakhaBrakha (whom I had the absolute delight to see live – and free – in San Francisco a few months back).  These two bands produced a lovely cd together in 2012 entitled Хмелева Project. From that point on I was hooked but, to my dismay, there was naught to be found as far as recorded output.  Imagine my glee when they announced the release of Thou. I was not disappointed.  Like DakhaBrakha, Port Mone’s music is as deep and rich as the heritage from which it springs.  Yet this is far from “folk” or “world” music (terms I, personally, loathe anyway). This is something new, something uniquely human. Perhaps as the consciousness of this here globe begins to coalesce, and eviscerate what we perceive as separateness, the arts will begin to glow from the humus of the old paradigms.  Perhaps we will see/hear something closer to the connectedness {to the earth, to nature, to one another} of experience that is present in the music of Port Mone.  Fine album indeed.

imgresCircle (ex-Falcon) – Leviathan

This album marks the beginning of an obsession.  It all started with a review from WIRE magazine (the bliss and bane of my existence) on a release by a dude named Jussi Lehtisalo (The Complete Solo Works).  I bought it, listened to it, loved it; and as is my wont, I began to do a little research as to who this dude was, where he came from, and what else he did.  Little did I know the freakin’ treasure chest (or Pandora’s Box) I had unwittingly peeked into.  Those of you already into Circle are chuckling with wry little grins on your smug little faces, because you know what happened next.  I now have (proudly with embarrassment) probably 40 related albums which I have been absolutely relishing for the past year.  And they just keep comin’: Pharaoh Overlord, Kuusumun Profeetta, Rättö Ja Lehtisalo, and on and on.  This a prolific bunch of Fins!  The music: (on this disc) imagine this: You have been captured by Vikings. They take you to their cave and pull out a bunch of interesting stringed instruments, some drums, maybe a bass, and a keyboard. Before they stab you and steal all of your gold, they treat you to the most intriguing – sometimes droney, most-times gripping – and hypnotic music you have ever heard.  You don’t mind dying. Because you have just witnessed something purely exquisite.  But they let you go, because it was all a joke.  Finnish humor. You run home, happy to still be alive, and start buying albums by them. The next one is some combination of Can and Neu! on speed; the next Can, Neu!, and a bit of Faust on barbiturates; the next a bunch of goblins in a dank underground cavern improvising goblin folk… You get the idea.  Every album an adventure.  This one is where it began for me.  Which will it be for you? Hm?

imgresArve Henricksen – The Nature of Connections

On the Rune Grammofon website (awesome label by the way), they describe this album as “seductive”.  I’d say that is a pretty damn good descriptor.  Those already familiar with his work will not necessarily be surprised as he has not strayed too terribly far from previous releases, but really, who gives a fuck when the music is this beautiful?  He could keep doing the same thing forever and I will just keep buying it. What’s wrong with iterations of beauty anyway? Faulkner did it.  For those of you who have only heard his work through his other group Supersilent, you will be surprised.  This has those melodies that dig straight into your heart, and my tear ducts. They draw you into their world like a siren song without the claws.  The pieces are penned by Arve’s collaborators – talented bunch all – and are all exquisite, crystalline, fragile little musical palaces.  His decision toward this kind of generosity, I believe, says a lot about his spirit as an artist.  You can hear it in the music.  This is an absolutely gorgeous album.

imgresSwans – To Be Kind

Dear Lord, where will it end?  How many brilliant albums will Michael Gira release before he just goes up – poof – in a little ball of flames?  When I first heard Greed back in the late 80’s, I was hooked.  Many, many albums later I’m still astounded. Gira’s music is mesmerizing.  (Mesmerizing – named after Franz Mesmer – who theorized that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animate and inanimate objects that he called animal magnetism; later referred to as mesmerism.) Fits Swans music to a tee: animal.  How Gira combines such incredible intelligence with such a visceral music escapes my grasp.  But Swans has never been just Gira but more like some wild beast tempered only by the volume control on your stereo.  It is very obviously a band effort. After listening to one of Gira’s Kickstarter projects wherein he puts some demos on display, it is clear that Swans have become a multi-headed creature. The incredible thing – one of them anyway – about this record is the restraint.  It is a word I tend to use to speak about Neubauten as well. It is a word I would have associated with neither band 30 years ago. Quite the opposite actually.  Swans give songs time. They rely on the fact that your heart will continue to beat throughout the 2 hour running time of this music. They rely on their talent to transfix, and then to implode, before they ex-plode. This album haunts,  jeers, delights, frightens, scorns, relishes; it loves the very sounds that bring it into four dimensions. A million stars.

imgresTuxedomoon – Pink Narcissus

Be warned – vinyl only.  Another one with a long, storied, brilliant career – Tuxedomoon. Originally from San Francisco, they gave up on the US in the late 80’s and never came back.  Though they never stopped loving SF, they couldn’t seem to muster up any kind of real audience in the states.  Those of you that know me, know what I have to say about that. So I’ll just keep my trap shut.  Pink Narcissus is just what you would expect from a Tuxedomoon album – lush, just this side of the bizarre, a touch of French cafe, a dash of theatah, accomplished musicianship, a trickle of humor, and more than enough imagery to occupy one’s auditory synapses for years to come.  Let it be said, this here is a soundtrack, a route well traversed by the band, but a soundtrack that stands firmly on its own merits.  I don’t think I could put it better than Eric Torres on Pitchfork: “Pink Narcissus the album is a lush, sometimes unnerving trip into the dark, exposing the erotic mysteries and desires so often obscured beneath it.” Yep.  Good stuff.  I’m so glad they are still making music.  Thank you, Europe, for appreciating great art.  Fuck you, United States, for forcing artists like Tuxedomoon and Carla Bozulich (yes, that’s right, she left too) to relocate just so they can make a meager living.  There, I said it anyway. Buy this  album while you still can. They only made 1000. You can download it too, if you’re that type.

imgresBeck – Morning Phase

Confession: This list is traditionally devoted to stuff that floats under the radar. Much of it does not have much press. So I know what you’re saying to yourself… “Lacunamusic guy has sold out, gone commercial, just trying to get more readership, probably getting sponsors for his page, whatta dick!”  Well, you’re right, I am a dick.  But that’s beside the point. I’m writing about this record because it is just so damn good.  I’ll admit, I really like Beck. I’ve got just about everything he’s released. I’ve been a fan from early on.  I’m not going to say much about this record. You can find it all over the interweb. But just go listen to this one song: Turn AwayIf this song doesn’t turn your very soul to butter, then you have no soul.  It is simply sublime.  The whole record is masterful. Done with skill, restraint (there’s that word again, I must be getting old), and heart.  That’s it. I’m done.

imgresScott Walker + SunnO))) – Soused

I’ll just say one thing right up front: if you don’t like Scott Walker and you don’t like SunnO))), then just skip this part of the list, because you are not going to like this album. However, if you are like me and love Scott Walker, and you love SunnO))), you are probably going to love  this album! It’s everything you would expect.  Don’t be fooled though, this is a Scott album. He is most definitely calling most of the shots. But really, who cares?  To have SunnO)))’s monster riffs embellishing Scott’s alternative reality is, to me, an absolute delight.  In accord with all of Scott’s post-Tilt records, it is brimming with philosophical, historical, and literary references, some of which he is kind enough to fill us in on in the liner notes.  Being a book geek, I just love that shit.  My hope here is that this is not the last collaboration between these two icons.  I’d like to see this idea taken to its fruition, or approach the kind of climax that it has the potential to approach.  This is a record that seeps under your skin. You’ll find yourself reaching for it when you feel that familiar existential tug on what you perceive to be your soul.  You will play it in hopes that you will be assured that you do, in fact, have a soul.  As it closes, you will be satisfied in the fact that you will never be satisfied. Ah, to be human.

imgresNoe Venable – Cascadia

I’m a little biased on this one, because I know Noe, not that well, but well enough to be certain that she is one of the finest types of human beings on this here planet.  She is gentle, kind, intelligent, and filled with wonder.  All of this pours like silver into this album.  It is poetic, graceful, brilliantly played by a group of sensitive and ridiculously talented musicians – most notably Todd Sickafoose – whom anyone with an ear for creativity should check out. The songs float on a bed of strings, dulcimers, piano, chorus, percussion, zithers, and of course, Noe’s exquisite voice.  The words are inhabited by spirits of the wild, souls of the departed, poetry that defines sublime. Such an interesting word that.  One whose definition has been watered down somewhat.  In Wordsworth’s time the word sublime meant – of such beauty or grandeur as to inspire fear or wonder.  This is the world that Noe inhabits. Not only does she inhabit this world, she brings it alive for all of us who live out here. She makes it real and makes us want to believe – in the connectedness of all things, in a categorical panentheism so rejected by this too Christian of cultures. This is a panentheism that our planet desperately needs at this final hour of the industrial age.  Noe’s music is, to me, a sign of our species’ awakening.  Do yourself a favor, go buy this from her website. Tell her how much you appreciate the time, effort, and depth of spirit that it took for her to unleash this album into our world. I think she’d appreciate it.

imgresHauschka – Abandoned City

Just look at that cover.  Now imagine the soundtrack.  Now imagine that said soundtrack would, in the end, make you feel like there was hope for humanity.  Paradoxical eh?  Welcome to Abandoned City.  Hauschka is the brainchild of German pianist, Volker Bertelmann,  (Nice guy, by the way. I got to meet him when he played here in SF this past year.) Though Bertelmann wears his Cage influence on his sleeve, his music ends up skirting comparison to the late great composer.  Running his piano through a series of effects and abusing it with all manner of junk – vibrators, nails, wood, foil, stuffed toys, and God knows what else, Bertelmann has taken the prepared piano a step or two forward (or back) from the precise preparation of Cage and his ilk.  The pieces on Abandoned City have all of the bizarre unexpected noises you’d expect (I know) from a prepared piano – the drums, the buzzing, the plinks and plunks – with the added thrill of Reich-ian ostinati and German drama.  I must say, it was truly incredible to witness this stuff live.  And what’s more, it looked like he was having a buttload of fun.  You can hear the fun in the cd as well.  High five to Bertelmann.  Stunning album.

imgresTim Bowness – Abandoned Dancehall Dreams

Where can one even begin with Tim Bowness?  One of the great Romantics of our time he is.  You’ll notice that I capitalized “Romantics”.  There was a reason for that.  Bowness hearkens back to that particular period (one of my favorite periods by the way) of philosophy – Romanticism.  This is the time of Blake and Wordsworth, of Schelling, Goethe, and Fichte, of Schubert and Chopin. It was the revival of Plato, and later the victim of its own self absorption.  Too bad, ’cause it was really on to something special. Fortunately for all of us, that particular stream of integral philosophy is making a comeback.  Hopefully we’ll all still be alive to see it.  Anywayyy, back to the subject at hand.  I must agree with many of the pundits out there that this may well be one of the very best things Bowness has done in any incarnation of his musical self (no-man, Samuel Smiles, or otherwise).  It is both grand and subtle, confessional and universal, literate and personal.  It lives up to all that gave permission for this kind of art to be in the world. In other words: Chopin would like it.  Liszt might like it even more.  I like to picture the both of them, casually sipping their absinthe, Bowness crooning in the background, eyes are closed, fire is crackling, edges of mouths slightly upturned, all is right in the world.  Thank you Tim, for so many years of beauty. I look forward to many more. And from the sound of it, I’m thinking that you’re nowhere near slowing down.

Honorable Mentions (only because I’m taking pity on your poor taxed attention span, not because these records are any less great).

Motorpsycho – Demon Box – Actually a repress. But, damn, what a repress!  And what a band. I love these guys.

Zoviet France – Patina Pooling – This one for the incredible music and the sheer fucking audacity of putting out a double album set enclosed in a rusted metal sleeve.  Here’s what The Vinyl Factory had to say: “This record is so industrial you need to watch out for rust! No seriously, you do. The 2x 180g vinyl is wrapped in weathered and laser-etched reclaimed steel sleeve and packaged with artefacts salvaged from a burnt-out American warehouse in the ‘80s. As a result, it weighs a ton and the rust does spread. As impractical as that may be, it’s beautifully fitting for the music of Patina Pooling  – a haunting ‘call and response of residue and hybrid’ between industrial pioneers, :zoviet*france: and sound scavengers, Fossil Aerosol Mining Project.”

Mirel Wagner – When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day – Pure haunt, this one.  Imagine Tracy Chapman, trapped in a closet, peering through the slats as Kathy Bates stalks around with a hammer and some belts…  Now couple that with dark Appalachian beauty. Now you’ve got it.

Jenny Hval/Susanna – Meshes of Voice – Simply breathtaking this one. Two great voices that have transcended whatever expectations we may have placed upon them.  Stunning release.

 

And there you have it.

Remember: Making records is a costly endeavor.  If you go and download music or stream it from one of those fuckin’ parasites like Spotify or Pandora or their ilk, then you are a bad person.  You are stealing from artists.  Would you take a seven-year-old’s bicycle from them?  Would you steal a pitcher of lemonade from their stand?  That’s what it’s like.  So : Stop it!  Don’t do that anymore!  Ok? Ok.

Something’s Happening Here (But I Don’t Know What It Is)

Bass Line Dada

Bass Line Dada

Something odd has been going on in lacunamusic land over the past few days.  Something that has not occurred in the past several years of its existence.  Something that we have heard happens sometimes… This: a bunch of people all over this little blue planet read the words scribbled herein.  It was a little like those dreams where you suddenly realize that you are at work in your onesies, with those rhino slippers that your spouse got you for your birthday as a gag gift.  Or that feeling when someone opens your bedroom door while you are lip-synching and air-guitaring Born to Run in your underwear… in front of a mirror… with sunglasses.  Getting the picture?  I kind of thought I was doing this thing all by myself.  All of a sudden I look up and there’s 500 people gazing in my window.  Holy Mother of Baby Jesus, I thought, I am an overnight sensation!  I’d better step up my game; why, a Nobel Prize could be just around the corner.  As one of my hero’s uncle was quoted as saying, “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” (Uncle Ben)

So I began to ruminate upon possible topics with which I could solidify my newfound fame.  I tried at one point to write about philosophy but only other philosophers really give a crap and they don’t read blogs.  Climate change is important I think, but what a downer.  Space travel is a catchy subject but it always leads back to climate change. Government torture seems like a fruitful avenue but the last thing I need is the NSA crawling up my ass.  And then there’s the all the fuckin’ profanity I use!  How would I explain that to Oprah? I found myself in a real live bonafide quandary.  I must publish for READERSHIP.  God only knows what could be right around the corner: book deals, articles for People Magazine, spreads for GQ, Hollywood!  Suddenly, just this morning as a matter of fact, I realized – Holy flying fuck!  This is precisely what happened to me when I made a thousand copies of my cd!  Instead of simply being about the thing in itself, it becomes about other people’s reactions to the thing (see: Why I Quit Music). I was going along just fine, writing whatever the hell I wanted, maybe chuckling at my own juvenile sense of humor periodically, but really just writing for me – because I like the act of constructing a nice paragraph, playing around with this fine English language, being kind of flip.  Why? because I was in my underwear rockin’ out to Springsteen.

In my last post I prattled on most vehemently about the state of the music scene.  Apparently a LOT of people feel the same way, but if you are a musician you’d better not talk shit about the music scene or KAPOW! you are out on your skinny little ass.  Since, as I stated earlier, I quit music, I really couldn’t care less what people think.  Of course there was the lone butt-wipe who said something like,”Maybe if he put as much thought into his music and his audience, he wouldn’t be stuck with 800 cd’s.” This guy obviously missed the point completely. But as I said, hundreds of people resonated with the sentiments.  Back in the 90’s I was involved in a couple of different “bands”.  Neither of them could have given a rat’s ass about audience, or marketing, or online music sales, or any of the other crap that has subsumed the world of the present-day artist.

And you know what?  Here was the novel thing about that: it was fun.

One of those bands was called Bass Line Dada.  BLD was a ridiculously endearing little outfit that was a virtual casserole of genres … and an absolute train-wreck live.  I do believe that might have been the reason people so enjoyed our shows.  When I joined the band I played everything from treated recorder to xylophone to hand drums to guitar and banjo (few of which I had the slightest inkling how to play).  We were fronted by the most charmingest of poet/performers (Daniel Ari, who is, as we speak, putting the finishing touches on a brilliant collection of poetry/art: see his blog @ Fights With Poems), and augmented on Flying V Bass by The Reverend Doctor “Blackie” Holzberg.  (I was nicknamed Doctor Dark due to my penchant for penning such radio friendly classics as The Ballad of Lydia ShermanThe Gashleycrumb Tinies {which holds the record for highest body count of any song ever recorded} and The Ballad of the Stalker.)  Daniel donned the moniker of The Fang.  On our second, and unfortunately final, album we recorded his theme song (lyrics by Nervous Norvus):

Now here is the thing:  The thing is this:  Everywhere we played, people came.  We played our cd release concert for our first album Shoulder of a Hungry Man at The Starry plough pub in Berkeley.  We did the unthinkable and opened up for ourselves incognito as The Tony Clifton Experience.  Watch:

The Tony Clifton Experience live @ The Starry Plough

I mentioned a “couple” of “bands”.  The other was likely the most bizarre and neurotically lovable act this here Area of the Bay has ever witnessed: The Hand Shakes.  And, yes, it is supposed to be two words.  Narration cannot adequately convey how hilariously disturbed were these performances.  Thus I insert here a “documentary” on the life and times of The Hand Shakes:

I can hear your desperate implorations:  Please man, get to the fucking point!  You are asking yourselves, out of sheer self preservation, why is he prattling on about his past glories? Is he nothing but a bitter old man, pining on for days of yore?  The answer to that dear reader is no, and yes.  I am not a bitter old man, but I am most definitely pining.  There are a few salient points here that I’d like to bring to the fore.  (Thank God, you are saying to your computer screen.)

Point Number 1: Almost every show we did was packed.

Point Number 2: We did practically no advertising.

Point Number 3: When people said they would come, they came.

Point Number 4: People bought cd’s (when we had them).

Point Number 5: Everyone paid attention, rather than gazing at their hand-held device, or taking pictures with their hand-held device, or telling all of their friends and fans and followers what they were doing on their hand-held device.

Point Number 6:  We had fun.

Now tell me honestly all you artists out there:  how many of you can say the same about your shows?  To all of the above mentioned points? I’m imagining not a whole hell of a lot of you.  Something bad is happening to the human species and I’ll tell you this: it’s not good.  Here’s a theory… Have you noticed the proliferation of zombie-themed entertainment of late?  Now, you don’t have to agree with this theory yet, but later I’ll ask you to agree.  Think to yourself, what are the qualities of a zombie?  Besides the obvious… flesh-munching.  They travel in hordes.  They stare blankly.  They only pay attention to what’s in front of them.  They are in their own little world.  Their world is all about one thing.  Ok.  What does that remind you of?  Of course!  People with their fuckin’ hand-held devices!

We live in a world of lonely fame.  Each and every stupid utterance has the potential to reach millions.  Each and every idiotic antic can be recorded and posted for all the world to see and respond to with something equally as idiotic.  We have become attention zombies. So where does this leave the artist, who actually has something good to say (or not)?  Each and every day I am assaulted with “opportunities” like these:  “Seeking Alternative bands for Label Consideration”, “Skope Radio and TV Looking for New Artists to Fill Slots!”, “Seeking Artist/songwriters looking for a producer or label”, “Reach Over 60 Million Fans with Placements in Hundreds of Apps and Games”, “Radio Exposure on TRS247 Radio to 80,000 Monthly Listeners”….

Get the idea?  Fame.  It’s right there at our fingertips.  When I picture all of the artists spending their hard earned money (yes, all of these “opportunities” cost money) with the click of a paypal button, I can’t but also picture a Las Vegas casino with all of the sad old drunks blindly throwing their cash into a slot machine only to receive, well, nothing.

So what’s my point you ask (again).  To be honest, I have no fucking idea.  But what I do know is this, things have changed since those days with Bass Line Dada and The Hand Shakes.  And it was not so terribly long ago.  I think that, personally, I was happier when I knew who was paying attention to me.  Because they were right there, in the same room, or at the other end of a telephone line.  They were more than a status update or a cheery photo. They were a real human being, with reactions, physicality, a scent, eyes that said more than their mouth…  That world is now becoming a thing of the past. And what have we to show for it but sterilization.

I am trying to find myself as an artist again.  I need to reconfigure my relationship to the music that is inside of me, music that really wants to be in the world.  I am trying to be content with the idea that, possibly, no one will ever hear that music.  I want to relish again in the fact that I have a handful of very close friends with whom I do stuff, like eat.  Making music, for me, began as a deep desire to move others; it had nothing to do with sales or fame or labels or reviews or press releases or any of that other bullshit that eventually takes over.  I want that back.  Here’s an idea:  let’s you and I do a little collaboration.  I’ll post a song and you do whatever the hell you want with it.  Download and re-record it, overdub it, add a freakin’ symphony…Why? because we are all part of the same damn thing.  These songs are not mine.  They belong to the world… ok… to the universe (he says with begrudging embarrassment.) Are you ready?  Here’s the song:

Soon Comes the Morning

This is me letting go of ownership, and allowing you to take it.  It is a gesture toward the kind of world in which I’d like to live.  One that is free of the kind of proprietorship that harnesses creativity to standards set by corporations.  One that allows artists to be artists and not slaves to a system that relishes in perpetual struggle. Here’s my dream: I imagine a world where those who create are supported, valued, and esteemed; I imagine a world where ideas can be freely shared and “taste” is not governed by money mongering ass-wipes; I imagine a world where my song can return to me in a dozen different configurations, each version imbued with a generosity of spirit and good will; I imagine a world where art is placed above commerce; I imagine a world where decisions are made according to the laws of aesthetics and science is aligned with spirit but not blinded (or blindsided) by religion; I imagine a world where human  interaction is based upon mutual respect rather than competition and greed; I imagine a world where philosophy sails through the human imagination rather than circling through the belly of the Ouroboros. What would happen if billions of us imagined this world?

On that note here’s another song I’d like to share with you.  I like it a lot.  I wrote it in the spirit of the paragraph above.  Listen to the message and share it.  It will cost you nothing except about five minutes of your time.  If you like it share it with someone you care about.  Here is the song:

Burden of the Spell

Hopefully soon I’ll be back to a readership of 8.  Then I will no longer have to write such blatantly commercial articles such as this. What a sell-out.

 

Why I Quit Music (and the redemption of small press)

AL-deluxe-shop-image-1.jpg778-500x500

Part I: The Plight

A few months back I made the decision to quit music.  Ok, that’s not really true.  I’m just being manipulative.  But it is partially true.  I, like 6,335,428  other people in the Bay Area, fancy myself a “singer/songwriter”.  I had a little project that I called The Mockingbirds. (I would link you to the website, but I deleted it.) I put out an album back in 2011 called Lacuna that I was very, very proud of.  So proud in fact that I ended up printing a thousand of them, which in retrospect bordered on hubris.  With my little project (which boasted a price-tag of upwards of $15 grand) proudly gripped in my bony mitts, I ventured out into the local venues with the notion that I would strike up enough sales to pay for the next record.  Who wouldn’t want to buy this after all? It has all of the trappings of what people love: it thematically revolved around my late father but was uplifting rather than maudlin, it was all acoustic, it had just enough arty influence to make it interesting but was also quite approachable, it was beautifully produced and engineered, it had an absolutely stellar cast of musicians, the cover art (executed by gifted artist and good friend Derek Wilson) was gorgeous, and the songs were really fuckin’ good!

Now, hear this:  Being a “singer/songwriter” or any other kind of musician or artist or poet in the Bay Area, or any place else for that matter, is really freakin’ hard work.  You end up being composer, creative director, publisher, marketer, promoter, manager, financier, performer, networker, and sales team – any one of which is a full time job in itself.  I don’t imagine that most artists enjoy doing all of that other work, but they do it anyway. Why? Because there is no other way.  And this is what pisses me off to no end about “popular music”.  I personally know dozens and dozens of first rate, absolutely dazzling musicians and songwriters that are struggling to make ends meet while airwave-wasters like Bieber and Spears et al sit on their professionally toned asses collecting fistfuls of cash for absolute dreck!  Though I have now quit performing music of my own, I fully and happily and with god on my side, endorse a fifth  entry into Kant’s list of antinomies:

  1. the limitation of the universe in respect of space and time,
  2. the theory that the whole consists of indivisible atoms (whereas, in fact, none such exist),
  3. the problem of free will in relation to universal causality
  4. the existence of a necessary being…and...
  5. the cotemporality of shit and diamonds (or: you can’t polish a turd with cash)

Here’s an interesting side-note.  Just as an experiment, I started a Facebook page for Lemmiwinks the Gerbil King, one of my favorite characters from South Park.  I just wanted to see if it got any attention.  I also created a Facebook page for my musical project The Mockingbirds because, as stated above, I was also the promoter and marketer for my music.  I do absolutely nothing to the Lemmiwinks page, except post some sporadic bullshit about gerbils and other rodents.  That page now has 359 likes.  It just got another one yesterday.  My Mockingbirds page to which I pretty consistently posted “meaningful” and heartfelt content has 246 (200 of which are friends whom I paid to click the button, the other 46 are spam). Now if I were the scientific type and had to formulate some kind of hypothesis regarding public taste, I might come to the horrific conclusion that the general public cares more about animated rodents than art.  Would I be right?  Who knows, but I bet if we conducted a poll, we might verify that hypothesis.  Reminds me of the scene in Supersize Me where Ronald McDonald was a more recognizable face than Jesus (and that’s saying something in this god-fearin’ Christian nation of ours).

As I stated earlier, I have incredible respect for the musicians that are attempting to pull off a career amidst all of the crap they have to do to get attention.  But for me it’s like this: I like driving my car but please don’t ask me what’s under the hood.  I felt like an absolute poseur with promo shots, stage banter, web presence, blasting Facebook with cheery, upbeat status updates about shows that were an absolute fuckin’ train-wreck -“Great show last night at ArtBeat!  Thanks to all [two] of you that showed up! Thanks for [not] supporting local music! :-)”… Probably the worst experience was a disaster of a gig at Pyramid Brewery in Downtown Walnut Crick.  It was like Derek Bailey (rest his ultra talented soul) performing for KFOG Kaboom – all puzzled looks over pints of draft beer and nachos.  All of this to say, I still have over 800 really lovely cd’s in my garage that I’m now donating to charity events.  (You think I’m kidding.  I’m not.) (If you want one, let me know. It comes with a dollar bill.) I say these things not to get an aw-poor-baby but to reveal just what the hell is going on for most of those “singer/songwriters” that are up there pouring their talented little hearts out for a crowd that is more interested in gossiping about their neighbor’s teenager than listening to what the artist has to say.  So I say to all those people (none of which are you, dear reader):  Pay attention, dammit! Buy a freakin’ cd!  You spend more on crappy Starbucks triple grande lattes than you do on music!  You say you love this artist or that artist and then you go home and stream it on Spotify!  You say to me, “aw c’mon dude, Spotify is coool… I totally use it to discover new artists”… No, you friggin’ don’t!  You get all of your music for free because you think you somehow deserve it!  Let me inform you of something, person other than you who cares deeply about the survival of the arts, you absolutely don’t deserve it.  That little silver disc that you refuse to purchase from the artist is not some damn gratuitous gesture, it is a labor of love!  It is a little slice of the only thing about humanity that gives me any hope – CREATIVITY.  By going home and launching Spotify (or Pandora or BitTorrent or any other stupid website or app that gives people’s music away for free) you are killing creativity.  You’ll pay $40 a week in crappy lattes but $10 for a cd that will help support an artist’s creativity well, that’s kinda pricey. Jesus.

Part II: The Redemption

Which brings me to the part about the possibility of deliverance.  (Cue angelic music). Amidst all of the utter and absolute crap that’s being released by the major labels, there are isolated islands of hope, oases of artistic integrity that are doing such incredible work that it makes me do a ludicrous little jig in celebration.  (It is like that joke where this guy has twin sons – one is a pessimist the other an optimist.  The guy can’t stand his sunny little boy but adores his little curmudgeon.  For their respective birthdays he gets the grouch a shiny new bike, and the little idealist a giant pile of horse shit.  While one boy is ignoring his new bicycle, he checks in on the other who is busily shoveling away at the pile of shit.  When the dick-head dad inquires as to the purposes of his activity, the boy brightly replies, “Well, with a pile of shit this big, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”) But back to the islands of hope: Some of these small press labels are simply devoting themselves to releasing really great music that pushes boundaries and explores the fringes of what music is capable of accomplishing (Isounderscore, for instance). Others, bless their souls, are releasing tiny runs of limited edition packages that are so exquisite in execution, design, and aesthetic content that it makes the mind wobble.

One of these art houses is Time Released Sound, lovingly run in Alameda, CA by a nice fellow named Colin Herrick.  Why just this morning I opened, listened to, and explored the 2013 release by The Angling Loser.  What can I say but what a treat for the eyes, ears, and fingers.  Inside the green, opaque velum envelope to which is affixed a fishing cigarette card, lies a little treasure trove of delights: a hand sewn fly tying flip book, an antique fishing postcard, a page from an angler’s instruction manual inside of which are enfolded two beautifully recorded cd’s, and a hand-numbered insert with track information.  The music is a tranquil combination of treated ambient-ish guitar, electronics, field recordings, and cryptic recorded voice.  Each release is a literal feast for the eyes and ears, usually in a run of maybe a couple  hundred.  Here’s a picture from their blog showing off some of this ultra-fine work:

time-released-sound

Am I right or am I right.  (Notice how I ended that with a period.) Freakin’ stunning. I want them all.  Now maybe it’s because I grew up listening to records (the kind that are 12″ in diameter and go inside a nice big cardboard cover with cool art to gaze at) that I like actually holding something in my hands when I’m listening, something that informs the sonic world in either text or imagery.  Something that fills the lacuna of meaning in the rich tapestry of the sensorium.  Or maybe it’s because I spent so much time with my lips on a bong as a young ruffian.  I don’t really know.  What I do know is that I absolutely love beautiful things, things that somebody’s hands have touched, things that are personal expressions packaged in love. I buy regular old cd’s in those goddam jewel cases, sure, but there is something so clinical and, well, unpatriotic about those.  This stuff that Colin produces, on the other hand, brings back that fine marriage of the arts that so many great artists (Gustav Klimt, Tristan Tzara, Jean Cocteau, Laurie Anderson, etc.) have spent their energy pursuing.

Here’s another one:  Wounded Wolf Private-Press is a publishing house in the UK/Turkey run by two ridiculously talented polymaths, Atay İlgün and Gözde Omay.  Quoting their website, their focus is “poetry, fiction, photography, folk and textural music along with additional prints and ephemera.” I recently ordered a couple of items from them which arrived promptly with a couple of additional gifts from these generous, kind-hearted folks.  The Hogweed and the Aderyn, is a beautifully textured slice of acoustic heaven.  Somewhat dark and pastoral, it conjures those European country-sides that all of us romantic Americans love to pine for.  The disc is housed in an elegant (biodegradable!) cardboard sleeve with a tiny carved wooden folk instrument affixed to the front.  All of this done, the music and the packaging, and executed by Atay and Gözde.

hogweed & aderyn

To my mind, this is the future of music.  Though I will probably never perform in front of humans again, I do plan to write and record. I hope that my next collection of songs can be released on a worthy press like one of these. Maybe just 100, but beautiful, handmade, personal, and intimate; a reflection of the time and effort it takes to plumb the soul and the intellect for words, search for the right notes and chords and rhythm to make the words come to life, explore the infinite variety of sonic textures that will support but not overwhelm the delicacy of the song, record until each gesture is in integrity with what the piece needs to come to fruition, muddle through the dozens of possible track orders until it flows like a river, and finally marry the final product to a visual aesthetic which both informs and augments all of those life experiences that have been boiled down to 50 or so minutes on a silver disc.

I love that there are people out there who have committed themselves to making a small but vital difference.  I love that there are musicians out there who are willing to go through endless amounts of bullshit just to grace our ears with their song.  I love that human beings love to create.  It gives me hope for the future.  For the rest of us our task is simple: appreciation.  Make art a priority because without it we lose a little bit of our humanity.  Scratch that… a lot…  So next time you are at a club watching/listening to an artist and some clown is talking about their stupid day at work, smack them upside their head and remind them that this music we humans make is our salvation, so shut the hell up!

Big Blood Shall Not Go Unheard! Nor Cerberus Shoal! (shaking fist at heaven)

Shame Faces

Shame Faces

Join me, dear readers, as we hang our little noggins in collective shame.  Now, repeat after me:

I (state your name), in utter ashamedness and humilification, confess my guilt in a heinous act of musical ignorance. I have not known until now (thank you, lacunamusic) about a collection of brilliance from the far northeasterly state of Maine.  I hereby announce my allegiance to listening to absolutely everything I can get my grubby hands upon by Cerberus Shoal and Big Blood.  I shall not swerve from this righteous path.  By everything holy…. Amen.

Those of you who read this blog consistently know that I do not post consistently, but when I do you know that the content herein must be of utmost importance.  Or that I simply have too much time on my hands (idle hands are the devil’s plaything as the saying goes). This time around I can assure you that the driving force is a healthy combination of both of these things.  I’ve just finished listening to Chaiming the Knobblesone (Cerberus Shoal) and just about all of the Big Blood releases from Strange Maine 11.04.06 (2006) to the stunningly brilliant new double vinyl release Radio Valkyrie+1905+1917+ (2013) (perhaps to my wife’s dismay as, with each spin, I’ve unerringly and vehemently lectured her on how lucky she is that I collect so many cd’s). Here is my reaction to all of this music I’ve absorbed: flabbergasted, flummoxed, amazed to the point of discombobulation that a collective with such unabashed talent is not famous!  They have collaborated with Alvarius B, Guapo, Visitations, Micah Blue Smaldone, The Magic Carpathians… still, I’ve yet to discover one lonely individual who knows about them (except for Molly, who opened my ears to them a few years ago… thank you Molly).

Cerberus Shoal was/is? a behemoth of a group that put out a whopping 14 albums since their debut in 1995. Each release a revelation. I find myself continuously surprised and delighted with their experimentational (this a combination of experimental and sensational) explorations.   Big Blood (a fruitful yet somewhat craggy branch of the tree that is the Shoal, including Colleen Kinsella and her hubby Caleb Mulkerin, and various others) has now released 16 full length discs – each a little diamond of lo-fi beatitude. I swear these guys have more talent in one hangnail of one little pinky finger than the likes of Dave Matthews or John Mayer have in their entire untapped soul. (Mayer’s single talent seems to be constantly reinventing himself as a new kind of asshole. Now he is the asshole who feels the need to pay retribution for being such an asshole.) Big Blood record all of their albums at home and each package is lovingly encased in handprinted heavy paper with cool little inserts and a picture of Colleen and Caleb with their ridiculously cute little baby. Not unlike this one:

Colleen, Caleb, and cute person.

Colleen, Caleb, and cute person.

The artwork is of this quality:

Dead Songs (2010)

Dead Songs (2010)

I could not even begin to describe the music of Cerberus Shoal.  If I were to do so, the very next disc would make a liar of me.  I’ll say it thusly: music oozes from them like words from a poet, like the drops from Jackson Pollack’s brush, like tears and smiles from a little beh-beh.   Here is the one consistent element: Surprise.  If you have even the tiniest of adventurous bones in your body, give them a listen.

Big Blood, on the other hand, well, this is another beast entirely.  Accordions, banjos, harmoniums, rusty guitars, kitchen percussion, weird little field recordings, and those gorgeous voices! all creepily, yet beautifully rendered to sound like some forgotten Appalachian living room recording off of Harry Smith’s Anthology.  It makes complete sense that this music should come out of Maine.  I’m not entirely sure whether it is because the state is shaped like a mitten or due to the fact that it is so fuckin’ cold up there, but I think that most of the country thinks of the state as sort of an afterthought.  “Oh, yeah, Maine… that’s up there by those little states, right?” (Of course, geography is not a strong point in the education of the youth of this here US of A. Not like, say, recess.) Whatever it is that keeps that state a mystery has crept into their music scene.  From Cerberus Shoal and Big Blood, I’ve now branched out into the even weirder out-lands of the Portland (Maine) music scene and ooo-weee, let me tell you, there is some crazy shite going on up there that may never reach the ears of us mainlanders, were it not for me, your humble blogger and musical spelunker.  But, that will be for another post. (Was that foreshadowing, pray-tell? Why I believe it was!) For now I leave you with a little sample of Big Blood.  And, boyee, is it a good one! Feel free to thank me.  I like being thanked.  Do yourself a favor, go trade in all of your Dave Matthews and John Mayer discs, take the small amount of cash you get, subsidize it by selling yourself on the street, and go straight to the Discogs Big Blood page and start buying things.  Just close your eyes and poke your finger, because you can’t go wrong.  Without further ado, I present you with one of the best bands in the world:

Why You Should Listen to Motorpsycho

images Motorpsycho one of those bands that I should play once or twice, twist a wry grin onto my face as     I smugly point out all of their straight-outta-the-seventies influences, tire of the sheer derivativeness of it  all, and stash away amongst the throngs of cd’s on my shelf. There should be a slightly gnawing feeling of boredom, wondering when all this jamming will finally end.  I shouldn’t like these guys as much as I do.  But I like them a lot.  As a matter of fact, I’m really kind of blown away by them.  They shouldn’t be able to get away with having all of these hard-rock-from-the-seventies influences that they simply flaunt all over their albums.  But they do.  And you know why?  Because they really freakin’ mean it.

Not in that Justin Bieber kind of way though. You know what I mean, that “I’m really serious about all of this you guys!  I’m all grown up now and I’m totally out of control. I’m a fucking train-wreck, man! Listen to how much I’m super serious about shit” kind of meaning it.  And not in that Creed sort of way either, which is just stupid.  (Just a side note from the grammar police:  If you are a Creed fan, or any other band for that matter, and you like to leave reviews on Amazon, here is how to spell definitely: d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y.  It is not spelled d-e-f-i-n-a-t-e-l-y. The root of the word is finite – like “my intelligence is finite“. That’s a good way to remember it. Now stop spelling it wrong. I will never ever buy an album whose reviewers spell ‘definitely’ like that. Just sayin’.)

From the first notes of Still Life With Eggplant (which, by the way, is not one of the songs) I found myself utterly engaged.  Here is how much of a geek I am: I have my speakers set up just so, to maximize their treble and bass response, and most importantly, their soundstage.  I have my ergonomic back support for total comfort, which also puts my little ears right where they are supposed to be for my speakers. I sat next to my dog, who I believe was also pretty intrigued. I put on the cd, cranked up the volume, and settled back into my little seat, closed my eyes, and marveled.

Now, I’m going to make another confession: I absolutely love 70’s rock,  and Motorpsycho seems to have learned from the best.  It’s got its Dust, its Ten Years After, its Deep Purple (when they were good), they even throw in a little Aoxomoxoa era Dead for good measure.  And yet, it all sounds completely fresh, like it was recorded in say, 2013, which is actually the date on the cd. Again, how do they get away with this? They convey the excitement of having discovered all of these sounds themselves.  Who knows, maybe they did.  (I remember a friend describing Jandek’s music to me for the first time: It is like he heard about these things called songs… and that people sing them while accompanying themselves on a guitar – which has strings. So, without hearing these so called “songs” , nor understanding that a guitar had to be tuned, Jandek shut himself in his bedroom and proceeded to record about 80 albums.)  Whatever the story may be, Motorpsycho have recorded a damn fine record.  Thus ends my very convincing argument about “Why You Should Listen to Motorpsycho”.  I hope you have liked my report and that you have learned something from it.

Here is a photo of my dog while listening to this cd:

Mr. Peppers listening to Motorpsycho.

Mr. Peppers listening to Motorpsycho.

I know, to you he just looks like a dog sitting on a couch, but I can assure you, he was absolutely into it.  It takes a keen eye to identify a dog that is just sitting there being a dog or a dog that is totally rockin’ out, you know, diggin’ on the lyrics and stuff.  This dog was into it.

Now that you’re convinced of the utter awesomeness of the album I’ve so skillfully reviewed, here is one tune from Youtube:

In case you’re a geek like me and like to buy directly from the label (and here’s something exciting – you can pay in Nooks!) here’s the link for that too:

http://www.runegrammofon.com/artists/motorpsycho/rcd-2143-motorpsycho-still-life-with-eggplant-cd/

Bye for now, and happy listening.

Dan Cantrell – Orphaned Anthems CD Release

dancantrell…And why you should attend.

Ok, here’s the dealie:

There are some frighteningly creative musicians residing in this here Bay Area.  Some of them I’m proud to call my friends.  One of said creative musician friends commits a certain level of casual bad-assery whilst armed with keyboardy items or saws… you could probably make him close his eyes, stick a carburetor in his hands, and out would come something beautiful.

Without further ballyhoo, I would like to introduce you to Mr. Dan Cantrell.  I’m going to do something that I don’t normally do in these blog pages, I’m going to get to the point:

Here is the point:  Dan is about to unleash upon an unsuspecting world a masterpiece of a record, humbly entitled “Orphaned Anthems”.  The birth of this little bundle of musicality will be celebrated with a concert – a concert where Dan will surround himself with other ridiculously talented musicians and, most likely, flabbergast all of those in attendance.

Dan quietly calls this his “piano album”.  But, my friends, don’t be fooled by the unassuming descriptor.  This is Bulgarian dance music meets Mr. Bungle meets Carl Stallings meets Erik Satie meets a boggled mind (yours, that is, when you hear how it all holds together).  As the first piece (Pinstripe) began to drip mellifluously from my speakers I found myself with a cartoonish grin, shaking my head in disbelief that this music did not just careen off the rails.   Chased by Cartoon Flowers made me laugh out loud with utter delight, whilst widening my beady little eyes in amazement at the right-angled musical turns.  Sorta like your first trip to Vegas when there’s a surprise around every corner.

By track four (The Man Born on Wednesday), we have traveled to Bali via some strange alternate universe back alley – jazzy pianer riffs with shadows of Ketjak, outlined by Hawaiian steel guitar.  Dan confessed to me that he feared listeners might get tired out and not be able to listen to the thing in its entirety.  To that I say, “Balderdash, my good man!” (I didn’t really say that, but I thought it sounded pretty good, and how often do we get to say “Balderdash, my good man!” anyway?)

Let me tell you the things that tire me out:

> Watching Dave Matthews dance… but only because I’m laughing so hard. (Pop in at about 1:11)

> Listening to vapid pop ala Spears, Bieber, etc. (Bieber, by the by, is the very first name to pop up when you type J-u-s-t- into your Google search bar…. go ahead try it.  Justice is third.  What does that tell us about our culture’s values?)

> Having diarrhea.

> Not being able to breathe.

I think,  pretty much in that order.

Listening to Dan’s new album thrills me to no end.  It is absolute proof of Alfred North Whitehead’s notion of the creative advance into novelty:

There is a fundamental cosmic urge toward novelty that is intertwined with the very process of evolution. This urge calls all of the events of the world forward into ever more profound beauty, variety, and complexity. (or something like that…)

Orphaned Anthems is that (^) expressed in music.  It reminds me of all of the reasons there are to love people.

I’m going to give you all of the information so that you may attend Dan Cantrell’s CD Release concert and sit and be thrilled with me.  Here it is:

When: 

This Friday, April 12th, in the year of our Lord 2013.

8:00 p.m.

Where:

The Hillside Club

2286 Cedar St. near Arch St.

Berkeley, CA

I’m also going to give you a link to Dan’s website (here) and his CDBaby pages (hee-ah and hee-ah and hee-ah) in case my powerful disquisition did not thoroughly convince you.

Come to the show, dammit.

 

Dan will be accompanied by a whole tribe of fellow bad-asses:

Dan Cantrell-piano
Lila Sklar-violin
Eric Perney-bass
Tobias Roberson-percussion
Myles Boisen-lapsteel
Paul Bertin-saxophone
Jason Ditzian-clarinet/bass clarinet
Rebecca Kleinman-flute/alto flute
Madeline (Maddy) Tasquin-voice
Lily Storm-voice
Sean Tergis-percussion
Diana Strong-accordion/celeste/wurlitzer/toy piano
+ more!

Is that still not enough to force you to leave the comfort of your home?  Well… there will be dancers too!  Moving to the choreography of the lovely Elizabeth Strong will be:

Elizabeth Strong (herself)
Rose Harden
Elana Brutman
Erica Lingrell

Now will you come?  Put Dan on your musical radar.  BE THRILLED.