Friday, November 30, 2007


I just love it when an over-exposed pop star gets put through the meat grinder. Not literally, of course (though I've had my fantasies). And that's what happens to Madonna in today's tune. The executioner of this lovely bit of electronic chaos is solcofn, a Washington DC radio show host, composer of soundtrack-y instrumentals, dj, and masher-upper. Sez he: "I tripled up her vocal and had one pitched way high, the other a little low and then the third has all kinds of effects on it."

Good news: when I asked sol if we can expect more of this kind of madness from him in the future, he replied, "indeed my friend...indeed!"

Halos and Hang ups

I knew a guy who used to work at a media company who used to have to answer the phone when Princess Ciccone herself would call. Demanding to speak to someone, she would hiss "Do you know who I am?!" Ha, classy! I'd put her on hold and play this as the on-hold music. Over and over.

Monday, November 26, 2007


It's hard enough to get one person playing the theremin in tune, but nine? This group even harmonizes with each other. As Bill and Ted would say, "MOST unprecedented." This achievement is made even more unusual by the fact that the theremins everyone's playing are inside what appear to be Russian nesting dolls. Which might make sense if they were playing the works of a Russian composer, but this video shows Japan's Masami Takeuchi and company performing music from Czech composer Dvořák, so I don't know what's going on. It's pretty great, tho. From Dvořák's The Symphony No. 9, in E Minor "From the New World" (Op. 95):

Masami Takeuchi: video
Masami Takeuchi: mp3

He calls the instrument the
"matryomin" - a matrioshka-shaped theremin. Here's a lovely duet for matryomin and ukulele, covering The King:

Masami Takeuchi & Akiyo Hmaguchi: "Love Me Tender" video
Masami Takeuchi & Akiyo Hmaguchi: "Love Me Tender" mp3

Thanks to DJ Earlybird!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Les Paul is truly a man who needs no introduction. But, although his electric guitar and multi-track recording innovations have made him a living legend, his music is rarely heard. And that's a shame - a casual listen to his late '40s and '50s hits reveal a true mad genius at work. There's a whacked-out, almost Spike Jones or Carl Stalling-like level of lunacy to some of his records, often done with no-one else but Les, his guitars, and gadgets performing. Years before the Chipmunks, he was playing guitar solos at half-speed, then speeding them up for novel effect. Building his own studio, creating his own guitar effects, playing proto-rockabilly years before Elvis - this was pretty avant-garde stuff, yet he played everything with a light touch that made it accessible to mainstream America.

He was never really pegged as a novelty or experimental artist because he always made sure his wife, singer Mary Ford, was on hand to lend a smooth, romantic sheen to many of his records. Indeed, they were one of the biggest selling artists of their day. Ask any older relative who remembers America in the '40s and '50s. Believe me, they've heard of Les Paul and Mary Ford, and could probably sing a bit of "High High The Moon" or "Vaya Con Dios" to you.

These two records are Les at his intrumental best. "Lover" starts off low-key, (if eccentric with those Chipmunk guitars) then after a minute, explodes into Esquivel-like lunacy. And "Brazil" almost sounds like glitchy electronica played over an exotica rhythm section. It's hard to believe that these were recorded by one man, and in 1948.

Les Paul: "Lover"
Les Paul: "Brazil"

Les and Mary had a radio show in 1949-50 that allowed them to stretch out beyond pop song formula and into surreal humor, as this short excerpt demonstrates:

The Les Paul Show "The Case Of The Missing Les Paulverizer"

The above tracks are taken from the excellent collection The Best of the Capitol Masters: 90th Birthday Edition. Mary Ford died in 1977. Les Paul is 92 years old, and still performs weekly in New York City.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Tesla Coils do more then just look cool shooting up electrical arcs in mad scientist's laboratories. The Austin, TX based science society known as The Geek Group can actually get them to play music. As this video demonstrates, output from two towering Teslas have been modulated from a control unit in order to generate the tones you hear. All that means is you get a light show and sounds from the same instrument. The buzzy music is kinda what you'd expect from a giant electrical gadget.

The Geek Group: Super Mario Theme

More Tesla music from another group of enthusiasts:

Steve Ward: video
Steve Ward: music

Now if only these guys would get together and jam with the 1-bit and tape-record folks...

Monday, November 12, 2007


Calling DJ HickoryDickoryDoc and Strictly Kev's two hour-long robot-themed extravaganzas "dj mixes" doesn't really do justice to them. At times they're really densely-layered sound collages as much as anything. Kev (of DJ Food fame) and DJHDD mine the fertile field of '50s/'60s Space Age records, layering spoken-word/comedy, movie/tv clips, children's records, Dictionaraoke, old new wave, sound effects, '70s funk, and other recorded ephemera over the likes of Jean-Jacques Perrey, Bruce Haack, and Frank Comstock. On HDD's "Robots R Computers" some modern beats hold it all together, but Kev's is more strictly retro-licious.

Robot mixes - Downloads and tracklisting (which don't begin to list everything used) available here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


You've heard the rinky-dink sounds of 8-bit video game music? Howzabout one-bit music?

Tristan Perich is an artist and composer from New York who takes the most primitive Radio Shack-type electronics imaginable and packages them in empty cd cases, which can then be listened to with heaphones. One would think it would be too primitive to be musical. One would be wrong. He's posted some mp3s on his site, like this thoroughly danceable cover of a Fischer-Spooner song:

Tristan Perich: "Just Let Go"

The One-Bit Groovebox crew from the Boston area can actually tell you how to make one-bit music of your own. Too bad there's not much music on their site because the one mp3 sample they did provide is wild:

One-Bit Groovebox: demo

Thanks to J-Unit 1!

Monday, November 05, 2007


Jaltarang, one of the world's most obscure musical instruments, is a collection of 16 bowls filled with varying amounts of water that are struck with sticks. It's sound is delicate, but rhythmically propulsive. Really quite lovely.

Indian tabla percussion-driven ragas are commonly performed on jaltarang, but so are Indonesian influenced gamelon-style sounds. I can't really figure out where it comes from, actually - it's so ancient, we may never know.

India's Milind Tulankar is one of the few virtuosos still playing jaltarang and has a number of cds but, fittingly for such an esoteric tradition, I'll be darned if I can figure out how to order them. At least he provides a number of samples and video clips on his "Sounds" page. Listen to:

Puriya Kalyan: Exciting, fast, hypnotic; and that tabla player's going nuts...

Friday, November 02, 2007


Only two months left in Otis Fodder's 365 Project! I contributed todays' post, an album's worth of "Disco Sickness." Lounge singers, ethnic acts, rock'n'rollers, easy-listening band leaders, children's music makers - everyone went disco in the late '70s, and this is my bottom-feeding collection of the best of the worst.