Sunday, January 31, 2010

WEB WONDERLAND

Hey, just cuz I'm not around around here much lately (sing it, Ricky) doesn't mean that the internets are no fun any more. Au contraire! I have some amazing amazing stuff lined up for you-alls, but 'til I return, dig:

Badmovies.org not only dishes on zillions of low-budget monster/kung-fu/exploitation/horror/etc cinematic masterpieces, but almost every film review also has - yes! - audio clips. Throw laughable sound bites into your dj mixes, radio shows, podcasts, or ipod random-ness.

Friendly Persuasion has returned to the air and 'net; Otis Fodder has been playing strange music on the internet for a decade now (when he wasn't curating the 365 Project or running a 'net label), and his three hour weekly show is truly an embarrasement of riches, with a special emphasis on French-Canadian oddities, representing his new Toronto home.

Godly Grooves is a near hour-long mix of German Christian '70s funk (just when you think you've heard it all, eh?) A big danke to Oskar for sending this jewel our way: "German DJs called Arok and Scientist did a (digital) mixtape of rare German Christian-themed funk music...this is stuff that was recorded before the commercialization and professionalization of the Christian music scene that's not nearly as big a market in Germany as it is in the US but does exist here as well. The music sampled in the mix is remarkable in its complete lack of the cool/hip that would otherwise be probably considered essential to this genre and yet it's of strange creative appeal - I'm certainly no expert on funk music, but the use of a recorder/children's flute on a funk track strikes me as rather odd...I don't know if this is any fun if you don't speak German. The thing I like most about the mixtape are the lyrics that are often very naive and contain a lot of quasi-liberation-theology capitalist-bashing in the name of equality."
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Crudcrud is in Morocco: a fascinating travelogue + Moroccan vinyl he's picked up along the way. I haven't been this jealous of a fellow music blogger since Radio Clash went to Africa.
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Cinema Terrorisme is a new-ish podcast for these End Times we're living in - a densely packed audio collage of music, sounds, speech, horror and insanity. Weee!

7 Layer Dip, on the other hand, is a North Carolina college radio show that is far more light-hearted, a romp thru bad/weird music (much of it taken from this here blog), and recipes. and here's a New Link.

The Residents are on tour in the US and Europe, which doesn't have anything to do with the internet, really, but since the Beatles of the Bizarre only tour once in a blue moon, and, having been around for over 35 years aren't getting any younger, this might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to catch perhaps the most famous group in weird-music history.

Monday, January 25, 2010

MUSEUM OF OBSOLETE INSTRUMENTS: THE GLASS HARMONICA

No, not that kind of harmonica. The glass harmonica aka armonica, invented by Ben Franklin in the 1700s (yes, that Ben Franklin), and played by dipping ones fingers into a water trough and touching rotating glass cylinders, was said to drive men mad, has an eerie, squeaky sound, and is championed by Linda Ronstadt. The weirdest instrument ever made?!?

In the late 1700 and early 1800s it was part of the classical instrument lineup with heavyweight cats like Mozart and Beethoven composing for it. And this 2002 album by Dennis James features Rondstadt briefly, but don't worry, there's no '70s hippie rock on here. Actually the album has that powdered-wig classy classical feel to it, even on the modern compositions. A weird, outer-spacey classical feel, that is.

Here's one song off it for solo glass harmonica that sports quite a haunting melody:

Dennis James:
Adagio for glass harmonica in C major, K. 356 (K. 617a), written by that Wolfgang Amadeus fellow

James is a pretty interesting guy. He accompanies silent films on theater organs (which he also restores),
Clara Rockmore herself taught him theremin (which he used for a '20s Russian sci-fi film), and plays a variety of obscure glass instruments that I'd never heard of before.

Got the whole album for you here. But beware! A German musicologist wrote: "The armonica excessively stimulates the nerves, plunges the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood that is apt method for slow self-annihilation. If you are suffering from any nervous disorder, you should not play it; if you are not yet ill you should not play it; if you are feeling melancholy you should not play it."

Dennis James: "
Cristal: Glass Music Through The Ages"
  1. Irish Lullaby, arranged for seraphim & chamber ensemble
    Composed by Dennis James, Amy Crocker
    with John Ellis, Marcia Dickstein, Simon Oswell, Sebastian Toettcher, Julie Gigante, David Shostac

  2. Quintet for Glass & Strings
    Composed by Garry Eister
    with Dennis James

  3. Non temere alma immortale, for armonica, soprano, alto, tenor & harp
    Composed by David August von Apell
    with Marcia Dickstein, Michael Horton, Dennis James, Linda Ronstadt

  4. Allegro for armonica (glass harmonica)
    Composed by Joseph Aloys Schmittbauer
    with Dennis James

  5. Caprice for Glass harp
    Composed by Fred Schnaubelt
    with John Ellis, Simon Oswell, Sebastian Toettcher, David Shostac, Dennis James

  6. Pavane, for orchestra & chorus ad lib in F sharp minor, Op. 50
    Composed by Gabriel Faure
    with Simon Oswell, Sebastian Toettcher, Geri Rotella, Virenia Lind, Gary Bovyer, Dennis James, Linda Ronstadt, Roland Kato, Julie Gigante, Sarah Parkins, Leslie Reed, Terri Koide, Ruth Ann Swenson

  7. Largo in G minor for armonica (glass harmonica)
    Composed by Johann Schultz
    with Dennis James

  8. Il Pompeo, opera O cessate di piagarmi
    Composed by Alessandro Scarlatti
    with Dennis James, Linda Ronstadt

  9. Adagio for glass harmonica in C major, K. 356 (K. 617a)
    Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    with Dennis James

  10. Adagio and Rondo for glass harmonica, flute, oboe, viola & cello in C minor, K. 617
    Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    with Dennis James

  11. L'Armonica, cantata for soprano, glass harmonic & orchestra Récit Accompagné - Adagio
    Composed by Johann Adolf Hasse
    with Stradivaria Ensemble, Dennis James, Veronique Dietschy
    Conducted by Daniel Cuiller

  12. L'Armonica, cantata for soprano, glass harmonic & orchestra Air - Andantino
    Composed by Johann Adolf Hasse
    with Stradivaria Ensemble, Dennis James, Veronique Dietschy
    Conducted by Daniel Cuiller

  13. Petite Impression for Glass harp
    Composed by Fred Schnaubelt
    with Dennis James

Friday, January 22, 2010

MID-WINTER MASH-TERPIECES

Some excellent music industry-baiting audio collages have come sledding down the hill lately:

When you've got a French/polka/female-rap mashup from someone whose name means "DJ Disgusting" featuring accordions mixed with a song that translates to "dance of the shit," you know it's got to be good. And it is:

DJ Dégueulasse: "Danse Sur La La La Polka" (Prototypes "Danse sur la merde" avec Guy Broucher "La la la Polka")

I Cut People's latest album "The Inside Story" is 30 minutes of hysterical media cut-ups, somewhere between the outrageous humor of Wayne Butane and the morally righteous satire of Negativland. He claims that over 100 movies were sampled and I'd believe it. Great collage artwork and funny stories makes for an all-around handsome package.

I Cut People "The Latest Distractions"

I've raved before about Ireland's Phil Retrospector, and the release of "Introversion," a full length, er, retrospective of his mashups should convince any holdouts. There's a
powerful emotional pull to these nearly beat-less meditations on melancholy, often injecting highbrow sources like Philip Glass and soundtrack musics into pop cheese, giving it unexpected depth.

Phil Retrospector "Bluebird Blackout" - Harry Dean Stanton reading Charles Bukowski, mixed with Muse and a bit of Bob Dylan.

The Kleptones have come straight outta the UK with another master- class on mash mixing, with "Uptime / Downtime," a flawless two-disc collection of free awesomeness - the first 76 minutes is a pumped-up party, the second set gets downtempo. It's all enough to make you wonder why people make such a big deal about Girl Talk...



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Ceramic Songs Of The Antenna Repairmen

The Antenna Repairmen are a Los Angeles trio who perform music solely on invented ceramic instruments. Some are pans filled with water that are struck with sticks, some are xylophone-like keyboards, and some look like jugs, as pictured on their cover of their album "Ghatam": (Lots more pics of the instruments HERE on sculptor Stephen Freedman's site.)

The music moves from meditative calm to chugging Mimimalism rhythms, with plenty of ethnic influences giving the whole thing the feel of an ancient ritual. Plenty listenable, and sometimes, as with this mp3, downright catchy:

The Antenna Repairmen: Marvin's Udu Voodoo (excerpt)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

HAITI BLUES

Believe it or not, there was a time when Haiti wasn't ruled by a dictator, had a prosperous middle-class, a vibrant night life. Let's go back to those days...well, actually, to a nutty '50s chacha novelty that surely rocked many a tiki bar, sung by a saucy American. This tune used to be a staple of my exotica mixes. Bailey doesn't really sing the inane lyrics so much as do a Mae West-like drawl:

Pearl Bailey "Haiti Blues
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How 'bout we get a bit more authentic? From Haiti's most famous exports (apart from the Fugees), a more recent classic from these compas (pronounced "kome-PAH") legends:

Tabou Combo "Pa
se Sou Ou" - like they say: "too, too funky"

Compas is more like African styles such as soukous then most Carribean musics, but if I were to compare com
pas to, say, calypso/soca, dancehall, or salsa, I'd say it's like comparing Al Green to James Brown - it's more smooth and subtle. Must be that French influence. It still rocks the party like a mutha, tho.

The father
of compas was Nemours Jean Baptiste, and in the early '80s the Mini All Stars (musicians of the New York-based Mini Records label) covered some of his hits, taking advantage of the modern recording technology of their new American home. This album is a non-stop party, with tracks like the berserk Mardi Gras anthem "Carnaval Compas Direct" comitting total dance-floor mayhem:

Mini All Stars "Fanatiques Compas"

Nemours was sick and blind by the early '80s and died in '85, so I'm glad that he lived long enough to experience these recordings' huge success in the Haitian music world.

Here's an album recorded off of worn vinyl - I cleaned up the audio as much as p
ossible, but this 1970 release features such devasting compas (like the title track and "Le Vrai Bonheur") that cd-quality sound really doesn't matter. Still, I hope the band reunion of last year will spur these guys on to reissue this classic:

Les Gypsies de Petion-Ville "Haiti"

The now Florida-based madman guitarist of the band, Robert Martino, has a seemingly endless bag of catchy riffs at his disposal. Good luck, Haitian peoples!
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

HAPPY 75TH B-DAY, ELVIS


I'm only a few days late. And, hey, isn't anytime the right time for a cheesy Elvis impersonator album? Especially one with narration between songs telling us, well, the Elvis Presley story. And how 'bout that snowman background? (Thanks to the person selling this album on ebay whose pictures I swiped.)

ALAN: The Elvis Presley Story

His singing occasionally veers into unintentional parody territory - it gets especially hilarious halfway thru "Heartbreak Hotel." It sounds like he's having a seizure.

This was apparently recorded while The King was still alive. When I went on a tour of Graceland, the guide explained E's death by saying it was due to: "...a dependence on medications, and the pressures of trying to please all his fans." Well put!

Friday, January 08, 2010

MUSEUM OF OBSOLETE INTRUMENTS: ACCORDIONS AND SAWS

There are two bands in America who base their sound on accordion and musical saw. I wonder if they know about each other?

Don't get me wrong - I love rock 'n 'roll like my name was Joan Jett. But having only a couple of sounds deemed "cool" results in a skimpy musical diet. Information is lost, like when a language or culture dies off, and we're all the poorer for it.
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Baltimore's Madagascar and Dreamland Faces from Minneapolis don't use guitars or electro beatz, but have an alluring, haunting, and, well, dreamy sound based on the folk oddity, the musical saw, and that perpetual punchline, the accordion. After sending away for their cds (and a 45 from Dreamland Faces!), there are times when all I want to do is listen to this stuff:
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Dreamland Faces: Ball Buster - kooky kartoonishness (from their "bunnies fighting" album)
Madagascar: Bear Goes Shopping - bear can shop in a brisk 7/8 tempo? Clever bear! (from their album "Forced March")
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Madagascar's sound leans more towards the "garde" side of the antique-garde equation, sometimes getting quite hazy and sloooow, while Dreamland Faces have been know to play up their antique-ness, with guest crooner Randall Throckmorton providing occasional vocals, and even accompanying silent films.
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What's so funny about the squeezebox, anyway? It has a fantastic diversity of sounds and styles, from raunchy Louisiana zydeco, to the moving, melancholy tangos of Astor Piazzolla. And polka is fast and wildly energetic, and uses a two-step rhythm. Like punk rock. But at least one South American country thinks accordions are cool. News website GlobalPost sez: "In many countries, the general public gives little recognition to talented accordion players...Rather than aspiring to be guitar gods, many Colombian children dream of striking it rich with the accordion, a bulky instrument that seems to be the result of a keyboard mating with a cash register.” Watch the video, and see the full article here.
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Let's Polka is a great accordion blog that actually covers sounds far beyond polka. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
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Sunday, January 03, 2010

ANIMALS ARE AWESOME!!

"LOL" gets tossed around a lot on teh inter-webs, but I really, really did with this one:

Cast of "Real Chance At Love": Animals Are Awesome

The intensely dumb, supposedly "hot"
young ladies sing, er, rap, er, vocalize an original song about our endangered fuzzy friends. No, I never heard of "Real Chance At Love" either. It's on VH1, another horrible "reality" show. But if they keep coming up with musical gems like this one, I may have to start watching. And if you thought the mp3 was funny, check the video (which is proceeded by a commercial, sorry about that):