Wednesday, November 30, 2011

FUN WITH SUN BOXES


Fayetteville's Craig Colorusso doesn't "compose" music so much as build gizmos that allow Mother Nature to write her own jams: "Sun Boxes are...twenty speakers operating independently, each powered by the sun via solar panels. There is a different loop set to play a guitar note in each box continuously. These guitar notes collectively make a Bb chord. Because the loops are different in length, once the piece begins they continually overlap and the piece slowly evolves over time."

The loops-of-different-lengths approach reminds me of Eno's "Music For Airports," and there is a similar meditative effect with this music. The ambient sounds of nature (the beach, insects, etc.) are a crucial component - these are, quite literally, field
rec
ordings. I first listened to this stuff Monday morning after a crazy Thanksgiving weekend (complete with a live "Yo Gabba Gabba" concert and thousands of screaming toddlers!) and it was as nice as dipping into a warm bath. Aaaah...

Listen or buy:

Sun Boxes Seven Inch
Link
or listen to a continuous stream.



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Benny Hill - The Ultimate Collection

Poor Benny Hill.

Britain's most popular comic and master of funny songs and witty wordplay gets about as little respect as the equally under-rated Three Stooges.
Python's the "Beatles of comedy," the Bonzos get the cult cred, but mention Hill's name and watch people roll their eyes. Songs about wives, mothers-in-law, naughty double-entendres - it's all pretty unhip, music hall stuff. Hill was one of the last of the vaudevillians.

His reputation is largely based on his popular, long-running tv show, but he wasn't all about leering at and chasing after the scantily-clad ladies featured on the show, and this album's the proof - clever rhymes (hey, Snoop Dogg and Biz Markie are fans) and surprisingly strong singing serve a variety of song styles popular from the late '50s to the '70s: doo-wop, country-western,
go-go beat, various pseudo-ethnicities, folk rock, and on the genuinely rockin' "Rose," garage-rock. Dylan (on several occasions), The Platters, and Sonny & Cher are winningly parodied. The latin/calypso "Bamba 3688" totally rules, funny or no. But most of these songs are funny, and some are really funny. I actually did LOL whilst listening to this. And does "Transistor Radio" from 1961 feature the world's first Elvis impersonation?

Benny Hill - The Ultimate Collection

1. Gather in the Mushrooms
2. Transistor Radio
3. Harvest of Love
4. Pepy's Diary
5. Gypsy Rock
6. The Piccolo Song
7. Lonely Boy
8. Moving on Again
9. The Andalucian Gypsies
10. The Egg Marketing Board Tango
11. Bamba 3688
12. What a World
13. I'll Never Know
14. My Garden of Love
15. In the Papers
16. Golden Days
17. Flying South
18. Wild Women
19. Jose's Cantina
20. Rose
21. Those Days [Duet with Maggie Stredder]
22. The Old Fiddler
23. Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)




Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Your Holiday Gift-Giving Problems SORTED

On this most joyous of holiday seasons, give the gift that keeps on giving - the gift of music! Especially weird music that no-one else in your family will like and will disrupt your turkey dinner! Almost everything in this collection was released this year and is available for purchase usually from the artists themselves. Hmmm... we need a word to describe artists not playing "indie rock" or who are on those indie labels that are just farm leagues for the majors, but really are putting out their own CDs/cassettes/vinyls entirely on their own...a word somewhere in between "indie" and outsider"..."in-sider"? Whatever, these are some talented freaks well deserving of your support. Some of the best new music of the year:

M4M Idol 2 Buy (22 Big Songs! Original Hits From The Original Artists!)

This collection is sorta the sequel to the M4M Idol contest from earlier this year, but I'm not gonna hector you into voting for your fave this time (tho you certainly can if you want to.) Artist include:

Bruce Haack/Sound Capsule: What, hasn't Bruce Haack been dead for years? Yes, like Gen. Francisco Franco, electronic music pioneer/oddball Bruce Haack is still dead, but his unfinished album "Electric Lucifer Book III" has sorta been finished by someone I hadn't heard of. I was dubious, but the results speak for themselves.

Twink The Toy Piano Band: Yay, a new Twink album! "Itsy Bits and Bubbles" won't be released til Dec. 1, and the usual whimsical instrumental approach now includes circuit-bent electronic toys, 8-bit video game bloopity-blips, "kitchen drawer percussion," and numerous toys including (natch) pianos. What could have been a long-exhausted one-joke idea continues to thrive thanks to strong songwriting, a widening sonic pallette, and a refusal to play cheerful, innocent music with an arched eyebrow. Excellent artwork, too.

Drexel
, Gamma Like Very Ultra, and The Mind of God are a buncha no-good, smart-ass avant-'tard bands playing spazzy songs with titles like "Poop Stains" and "Let's Kick Toby Keith in the Balls," and I love 'em. All 'net-releases cuz no self-respecting professional label would release this nonsense. But, actually, really well-played, not just screwing around. More, please.

Johnny Aloha has never been seen in the same room as ace lounge parodist Richard Cheese; his "Lavapalooza" album remakes songs like "Paradise City," "Gangsta's Paradise," and "California Gurls" in a way that is not only hilarious, but, recorded as it is with top-notch Hawaiian music pros, perfect tiki tuneage as well. If you were ever wondering, "What if Don Ho was a loc-ed out gangsta?" your feverish desires have been granted.

Non-Bio
, William Bowers and Peopling all make dark, abstract/ambient/noise
soundscapes. Fascinating. Non-bio's "Microsleep" sounds like it samples a scratchy old 78 rpm to chillingly occult effect

Party Killer dares to improvise; This big Portland band even sound like Black Sabbath on one song...if Sabbath used cheap electronics. Mind-melting craziness.

Orchestra Superstring: featuring DJ Bonebrake from X (hell, yeah!) on vibes, this exotica-ish instrumental combo's latest album "Easy" features the bizarre, wonderful sound of the "guitorgan" - not the usual cocktail-hour jazz.

Midnight Habit: speaking of bizarre instruments, an electric kazoo (!) is featured on this chilled bit of electro. Its nasal roar sounds pretty great, so who needs guitars anymore?

Stealing Orchestra: These Portuguese master of mirth and mayehm get serious on their first release that isn't a free download. Still wildly eclectic and eccentric, they just no longer sound like a cartoon soundtrack.

Last AND least...

Trudy Andes: this cringe-worth 9/11 tribute was sent to me by one of you who asks not to be named; well, I'M not gonna take the blame for it! Haven't we all suffered enough after 9/11?! Maybe some Twink videos will make you feel better:





Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Paul Rubenstein: Microtonal Music on Homemade Instruments

We first wrote about Paul "Ubertar" Rubenstein in 2009 when he was leading microtonal guitar-building workshops for New York children. They would then jam on these groovy home-made instruments, writing original songs to most charming effect.

His new album is solo - no kids - but it serves to demonstrate the man's compositional originality. Microtonal doesn't mean "out of tune," not if it's done right. In this instance, as with the Kraig Grady records we featured earlier, avoiding the usual Western do-re-mi scale doesn't me
an ear-wrenching atonality, but a gentle Zen-like Asian feel. Percussives plink and plonk, chime-like keyboards tinkle, and sometimes an electric guitar-like object (perhaps the "alumitar," pictured right) shreds over it all. Track 5 has some fantastic harmonic interplay, and Track 6 should be a hit, sporting the most irresistible melody in 5/4 time since the heyday of Dave Brubeck. Tasty, tasteful, and tuneful.

The new album "Solo Trios" is now available from Spectropol Records (or listen/buy from the Bandcamp page), but His Ubertarness has given us permission to post the entire album... at 128 kbps. That's right: if you want it in hi-fi, you gotta buy it. As well you should - the NY school system has made the questionable decision to cut his music classes. So the man is available to do scores, soundtracks, whatever you need. Maybe even parties, weddings and bar mitzvahs, tho those would be some pretty weird bar mitzvahs. What would Aunt Myrna think?! Anyway. Thanks muchly to Mr. Rubenstein.

Paul
Rubenstein "Solo Trios"

Monday, November 21, 2011

MUSIC THAT LOOKS AS GOOD AS IT SOUNDS


"The cristal baschet is one of the most beautiful musical instruments you will ever see, made of vibrating, tuned steel, fiberglass amplification cones and wire "whiskers" that shimmy when fingers rub the glass-rod keyboard. Film composer Cliff Martinez's version, which resides in the living room of his Topanga Canyon home, is about the size of an upright piano and is as much sculpture as instrument." So says this L.A. Times article about the soundtrack to the recent neo-noir film "Drive" by former Captain Beefheart (and Red Hot Chili Peppers) drummer Martinez.

The cristal baschet, created in 1952 as a sound sculpture by Bernard and Francois Baschet, is a cousin of the glass harmonica and glass instruments we've featured here, in which the moistened fingers of the player rub the instrument, like running your fingers around the rim of a wine glass, creating a melodic humming drone. The soundtrack album is a surprise hit, bringing this odd, obscure object to mainstream ears. It's dark, moody, eerie & lovely stuff, and you can listen to it here (jump down to track 6):

Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)



Friday, November 18, 2011

The Warhol Tapes

The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh put out a book that included a CD of excerpts from Warhol's private audio tape collection. The album is narrated by John Giorno, the poet who starred in some of Warhol's early films.*

Warhol used to carry tape recorders with him everywhere, and the Warhol museum has thousands of hours of 'em. This is but a wee sample, but a fascinating one, featuring goodies like a raw Velvet Underground jamming on "I'll be Your Mirror" with Nico, and some songs I don't recognize; Andy discussing a commissioned portrait of a guy with a hard-on that has never been exhibited in public; a campy Pope Ondine; a no-nonsense Edie Sedgewick; a Man Ray photo session; Holly Woodlawn on why it's a pain to be a drag queen; and a discussion of art featuring famous people's private parts. Yes, Mick Jagger and Studio 54 are here, but we also go shopping with Warhol at a grocery store. As Andy would say, "Oh, gee!"

The Andy Warhol Museum

The book/CD is way out of print and going for crazy sums on Amazon: $160 is a bit out of my price range. There is one (1) copy in the entire L.A. County Library system, and it's in the "closed stacks," meaning a librarian has to retrieve it for you and you can't take it out of the library. So I had to bring my wife's laptop to the library at a later date, they sat me in a special section, and I loaded in and copied the CD. Dang, the things I do for you people. Send me booze and chocolates! Remember me in your will!


*
But I know Giorno for the boss albums he put out in the late '70s/'80s on his own label that featured everyone from Laurie Anderson and William Burroughs to The Butthole Surfers. Good stuff.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ECK! A MOUSE!


I think it's safe to say that, of all the thousands (millions?) of albums ever made, this is the only one of it's kind ever recorded.

From the late '70s comes this traditional bluegrass band singing most un-traditional lyrics about "Eck," which was apparently some kinda New Age offshoot of Hindu - songs like "The Sound Of The ECK" are nearly impenetrable to the uninitiated. Weird and funny as you might expect, but very well played if you're into bluegrass. Which I am not (sorry, Steve Martin), but the vocal harmonies on "River Of Light" totally rule, even as they sing things like: "Look to the light of the living Eck master, he will guide you." Probably wouldn't go over so well on "Hee Haw"...

Hindu Kush Mountain Boys Plus One
And - hey, guess what! - there's actually a new album in the works from these guys. Good karma to windy for sending us this one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

THE HENDRIX OF THE JEW'S HARP

Anyone having trouble with Mediafire? Recently, they've changed things a bit. Anyway. As I originally wrote a few years ago when this album was still in print and I only posted one song from it:

There are millions of great guitar and piano players in the world, but, quick, name a great jew's harp player. The jew's harp? That thing you stick in your mouth, pluck, and go boing boing boing? With the vaguely anti-Semetic name? The same! Meet
Tran Quang Hai (also spelled Tran Hai Quang), Vietnamese-born music professor, folklorist, and jew's harp hero. (Hey, if there can be guitar heroes...)

His album "Jew's Harps of the World" does indeed survey various international jew's harp styles, though it mainly features those of Vietnam. Perhaps not melodic in the traditional sense, jew's harps are nonetheless capable of producing surprisingly diverse sounds and rhythms, sometimes suggesting electronic effects like distortion, wah-wah, and phase-shifting, though, of course, it's all acoustic.

Tran Quang Hai
"Jew's Harps of the World"

I'd just like to add to my original review that this album doesn't feature any other instruments besides the jew's harp. I play it at the same time as other albums. Goes with nearly anything! Boing, boing, boing...

Friday, November 11, 2011

STRANGE INSTRUMENTS FOR JESUS


The Musical Betts were a husband-and-wife duo who played (mostly) instrumental versions of gospel songs on such instruments as cowbells, marimba, musical saw, slide guitar, and sleigh bells. And vibraharp, which I think is like a vibraphone. Really cool stuff, but alas I know nuthin' about 'em. I do know they had at least one other album besides this one cuz Otis Fodder and Dana Countryman posted a song off it for their Cool and Strange Music Magazine comp, included here as a bonus.
It's a bit odd hearing melodies played on instruments like cowbells performed not as Spike Jones-like comedic music, but in a stately, emotional manner. If Tom Waits has this album, I would not be surprised.

The Musical Betts

1. I'd Rather Have Jesus
2. The Lords Prayer
3. What A Friend We Have In Jesus
4. Rock of Ages
5. He Lifted Me
6. Ring The Bells of Heaven
7. Dwelling In Beulah Land
8. Near The Cross
9. Let The Lower Lights Be Burning
10. Jesus Loves Me
11. Church In The Wildwood
12. Just As I Am
13. BONUS TRACK: Grumblers

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

RAY BOURBON: KING OF THE QUEENS

Even if only half the things said about Ray Bourbon are true, he was still one of the strangest figures in American entertainment. He:

- ran guns for Pancho Villa in drag
- was working full time as a drag queen performer as far back as 1932
- staged a media hoax claiming to have had a sex-change operation...but may have actually had the operation
- was mixed up in a Soviet gay spy caper
- put on a show featuring dogs with dyed colored fur who could urinate on cue
- was carrying a trailerful of animals when his car caught fire; when he gave his animals to a shelter for safekeeping, the animals were sold for medical experiments; Bourbon then put a hit out on the shelter owner, who was, in fact, killed, and Bourbon was sent to prison!

"Ray Bourbon had a show business career as a comedian and female impersonator that spanned over fifty years, well into an era when Gay liberation would take shape. He was perhaps the most well-known and well-traveled performer in Gay venues during the last century, but he remains largely forgotten today, his comedy both a glimpse into and a relic of another time.... His stage persona was complex and layered in many subtle ways; Ray is at once a gossipy drag queen, a bitchy diva, a butcher of sacred cows, and a keen observer of human nature. Ray would perform and record some of the same routines in the 1930’s, the ‘40’s and later in the ‘60’s; his quick patter and skills at improvisation keep the material fresh and the listener on edge."

Lots of free listening/downloading here:

15 Ray Bourbon albums

I haven't heard all of the albums linked to above, but what I have heard is plenty fun, replete with naughty double-entendre tunes like "My First Piece." Much of it replicates his low-budget nightclub show - campy, funny songs usually minimally backed by piano. These recordings range from scratchy old 78s to mid-60s hi-fi albums, but he/she keeps a pretty consistent style throughout,
remaking some songs and routines several times over the years/decades.

Kudos to
Randy A. Riddle aka coolcatdaddy for his extensive research and preservation work.

Friday, November 04, 2011

OUTSIDER MUSIC VIDEOS

Happy Friday! Here's a big ol' mess o' videos sent to us by their creator Halfcast Podcast. The music is by various hapless outsider unknowns, but I do recognize Dean Milan, whose ludicrous "Do It Like A Dog" was popular on WFMU's "Incorrect Music" show way back when. This is a different, er, "tune" by him. And there's a song-poem that was featured in the "Off The Charts" documentary. Otherwise, most of these artistes were featured on the old MP3.com. I fondly recall their "Worst of The Worst" feature, where I imagine many of these songs appeared.

The funny and well-done videos are mostly collages of found-film that nicely illustrate each song's bizarre subject matter. Thanks muchly,
Halfcast Podcast!











Tuesday, November 01, 2011

David Liebe Hart Does Not Need A Psychiatrist

As we wrote back in '08: "David Liebe Hart believes he was abducted by aliens, hosts a public-access TV program called 'The Junior Christian Bible Story Puppet Show,' draws pictures and performs music for tips on the streets of Los Angeles, and is looking for a woman." Nothing's changed in that department - he's still lashing out at racist churches, frustrated by women, and is pleading for interstellar peace among warring alien planets. But there are some new topics on his mind, e.g.: he really likes Ellen DeGeneres "even tho you're gay," and Karen Carpenter. And I was surprised to learn that, as someone of Irish descent, I'm from the Omegan alien race. Wow!

Hart has released several albums in recent years, again with sympathetic bandleader Adam Papagan. The effortlessly enjoyable "
New Songs Improvised Live: 6​-​05​-​08" is described thusly: "These songs were recorded live on the radio. David had no prior knowledge of the songs' topics. They were written up before the show, thrown into a lunch bag, and then randomly chosen before each song began. Thus, the lyrics for every track (with the exception of Love One Another and All My Friends Like Asian Girls) were entirely improvised, as was much of the instrumentation. Of course, you could never tell."

The results sometimes suggest Wesley Willis and Shooby Taylor the Human Horn backed by Half-Japanese. Oh, and he would also like to say: "I don't need to see no psychiatrist...we need to accept each other the way we are...we need to have tolerance for other people, no matter how they're different from we are." Yup. Listen for free, or purchase:

David Liebe Hart and Adam Papaga: "New Songs Improvised Live: 6​-​05​-​08"


His "Monsters" collection is just over 20 minutes of punk aggression, in contrast to the mostly positive "New Songs Improvised." In a vindictive mood, he names names, calling out those who have done him wrong. And he has just about had it with you women jerking him around. Don't mess with the Hart-dawg!