Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It's amazing how many books, videos, and audio tapes were rushed into print before the year 2000 to cash in on the Y2K fears. And I was also surprised to see how many were from a Christian perspective. I'm not sure how the fact that some computer programs only had space for two digits instead of four meant that the End Times were nigh, and I even listened to all of the two-cassette audio book I've posted here. But some of the most prominent Christian leaders in America such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson released Y2K merchandise.

These audio tapes feature dramatic! action! scenes! straight out of a disaster movie, as well as discussions on surviving the mayhem, and how YOU as a Christian can help in the coming crises.

Y2k: The Millennium Bug part 1
Y2k: The Millennium Bug part 2

Sadly, I do not have an audio version of this book - I just love the title:

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Because: 1) it's the holidays 2) I'll be getting a new computer/internet provider soon; which provider I don't know yet, so I've got that to sort out. 3) Baby Fab will be born in month or so; my life will be a little topsy-turvy for a bit, I imagine.

Did you know that it was once possible to be a pop star without having to play the guitar? Or with electronic production? You could get a major label deal by playing, say, a zither. Exhibit A: Ruth Welcome, whose 1950s zither albums for Capital Records display remarkable virtuosity. Listening to her "Zither Magic" album, one might be surprised to realize that there are no other instruments. She's a one-(wo)man band.

On this album, the bended notes suggest Hawaiian guitars or exotica without actually being exotica or Hawaii
an music. But there is a foreign, if not other-worldly feel to these instros. The zither is played with plenty of energy, but there's still a mellow feel to this album, perfect for holiday cooling-out with a glass of warmed spiked eggnog. And none of it sounds like "The Third Man" theme.

Ruth Welcome: "Zither Magic"

Featuring "It Might As Well Be Spring," "Hawaiian Wedding Song," "Vaya Con Dios," "I Talk To The Trees," and the Dean Martin classic "Memories Are Made of This."

You may not get many groupies playing arena rock with a zither, but at least one contemporary pop combo uses one: Taxi Taxi!, two 19-year-old
Scandanavian sisters on zither and accordian. They have a new version of the American folk standard "My Darling Clementine" featuring their dad on pedal steel guitar that is being used to promote a Swedish clementine fruit drink. Quite lovely, reminds me of The Cowboy Junkies, if anyone remembers them.

Taxi Taxi! "
My Darling Clementine" d

Saturday, December 19, 2009


"9 Countries was recorded on location in Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Tibet, India, Egypt and Greece between October 2005 and March 2007 by Tom Compagnoni. What you hear has been entirely assembled from these field recordings, no additional samples used."

Australia's Wax Audio made a splash with his politically-themed sound collages that even graced commercial talk-radio airwaves, as well as his party-ready mashups. But this production, literally years in the making, blows all that stuff out of the water. For one thing, the sound quality is amazing. No more hissy tape recordings in the field. And it rocks - it isn't just the New Age ambient wallpaper so often found in the well-meaning-but-dull "world music" crowd, but assembled with a pop musician's ear for looping compelling rhythms. The mixing of various sounds, voices, and beats is smoothly blended - all the laws of mashups still apply so far as getting everything on time and in a compatible key.

It's a trip - literally. You'll hear things like airport announcements, tv audio snippets, and street dialogue, which can get pretty funny. By leaving in the goofy stuff that one actually encounters while traveling, he gives it a
personal touch, so that it doesn't feel like a generic National Geographic special.

He took plenty of good pictures, too.

This tune features, among other elements:
a procession, and street hawkers in Myanmar; streets at dawn (with goat bell) in Tibet; temple drums and music in India; a monk chanting in Laos...

Wax Audio - Belur

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


If "Unsilent Night" got you in the mood to walk around the city playing music, let's take it one step further and join a marching band. Tho the concept of an alternative marching band goes back at least to the '70s, when the Los Angeles Free Music Society invaded a street parade, there are only two experimental marching bands that I'm aware of right now - Chicago's Mucca Pazza (pictured above) who have even been known to go on boats, making them not only a marching but a floating band:

Mucca Paza - Romanian Dance No.1

and LA's Killsonic (continuing the LAFMS tradition?), pictured here playing the subway I take everyday - but I've never seen 'em. Har-rumph! Like Mucca Pazza, they have a crazed free-jazz side, but also, as demonstrated here, a Latin influence. This tune starts off in a funky cumbia groove before becoming a kind of hyper Balkan dance:

Killsonic - El Cu Cui

They both have excellent albums, but obviously seeing them live makes more sense. Check the videos on their sites.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader jaybee for heppin' me to San Fran's extra-fine Extra Action Marching Band. Are alternative marching bands the "in thing"? Does every city have one now? (Not counting New Orleans, who've always had their own brass band tradition...)

Extra Action Marching Band - Back That Ass Up

Sunday, December 13, 2009


A few nights ago, I wandered the streets of downtown Los Angeles along with a host of angels and wise (wom)men who came bearing boomboxes playing a copy of composer Phil Kline's "Unsilent Night." Anyone could send him an email and he'd send you a free copy of his electronic work. Everyone met at the pre-determined spot, and off we went. It lasts roughly 45 minutes. Here's the first ten, recorded on my new digital recorder:

Unsilent Night (12-10-09)

Of course, when the order is given to hit play, not everyone's in perfect synch. And that would be boring if they were. Like Terry Riley's 1966 Minimalist landmark "In C," the whole piece seems to be in the same key, and alternates from smooth ambient passages to more upbeat rhythmic ones, so having multiple versions going at once starting at different times doesn't create cacophony - it adds richness. It's a unique performance every time, depending not only on how many copies of the piece are playing and when they started, but where the audience is - everyone involved is in a different geographic space so the sounds will hit everyone's ears differently.

Since its 1992 debut, "Unsilent Night" has become something of a holiday standard. It's happening in 25 cities this year, some still yet to come as of this writing, so check da site for a location near you. Apart from it being lovely music, I think it's a way to add to the warm fuzzy feelings the holidays can bring about in us. A communal event in the cold cold night, but not the same ol' caroling-in-Victorian-costumes routine. The end part of my recording even suggests church bells ringing, or chimes, while avoiding all Christmas music cliches.

You and your friends can buy your own copies, and host your own event, I suppose.

Did anyone else out there go and take pictures? The above photo was just one I found on the web from a different staging of "Unsilent Night."
The night we went was during LA's monthly Art Walk. Never done it before, but man, that's a happenin' scene. In fact, all the live music and djs we encountered along the way sometimes drowned out the boomboxes. Unsilent night, indeed...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chappy Chanakuh! (And Merry Mashmas)

Oy! Today is the first day of Chanakuh, and look at you. For this your father and I sent you to dental school? So you could listen to Chanakuh music mixed with these goyim songs? You're meshuga! "Dubstep" What is this, dubstep? You call this music? It's a bunch of foolishness! No, don't worry about me, you go off and play what ever music you when you dj at your nephew Harvey's bar mitzvah...I'll just sit here by myself and die of shame...

Klezmer and polka mixed with bangin' electro beatz as compiled by Boston's legendary dj BC, and, despite what your mother says, it really is a shtick naches (a great joy). My new fave holiday collection and I'm not even Jewish.
Look, I made one too! From this new collection of all my old Christmas mashups/cut-ups/remixes featuring such future holiday standards as "The Six Million Dollar Man & Santa Claus Fight Global Warming," "Little Saint Grinch," "Santa's Acid Hawaiian Space-Disco" and the previously-unreleased "Slay Ride" that features Cheech and Chong, NWA, and Wild Man Fischer, with Nine Inch Nails joining the Chipmunks.
And People Like Us' "Sound of Christmas," recently added to the Free Music Archive, is a real trip, starting with what could be someone throwing on some very entertaining kitchy thrift-store Xmas records before the drugs slowly start to kick in and everything gets all weird and psychedelic.
Happy ChrisKwanzaKha!

Monday, December 07, 2009


Yep, the Father of the Antique-Garde hits the big Six-Oh, and to celebrate, here's some rarities that actually rate among my fave recordings of his, and they've never even been released.

"On The Nickel" is a gorgeous, touching piano ballad about homeless kids on LA's Skid Row. I actually work on 5th Street ("The Nickel") not far from Skid Row. I think of this song often. This live-on-tv version completely blows away the overblown album
version from 1980's "Heartattack and Vine". Recorded off my old video.

"On The Nickel" - live on "Late Night With David Letterman" 12-21-83

"Table Top Joe" - This weird ode to a sideshow freak who becomes a Vegas star is in a totally different form here then the basic jazz band arrangement of
the album version (2002's "Alice"), a solo demo of Waits singing along with an experimental plucked thingie, kinda like an African mbira.

This solo acoustic guitar version of "Strange Weather" was a demo for Marianne Faithful, who did indeed cut it; Waits did a very different version on his 1988 live "Big Time" album; again, I prefer the stripped-down feel of the demo:

"Strange Weather" - taped off Wait's appearance on KCRW (late '80s)

"The White Knight" - beautful instrumental version of "Fish And Bird", from "Alice"

Waits has a brand-new album out now, "Glitter and Doom - Live."

Friday, December 04, 2009


I like the band name 3 Leg Torso - it reminds me of bad sci-fi movies like "The Thing With Two Heads," and of circus sideshow freaks. And a band featuring accordions, violins, and hand percussion (no guitars, no electronics) probably would fit right in with an old-fashioned traveling circus. As the tunes here, and on their MySpazz page make abundantly clear, this Portland quintet's instrumentals are quite lovely, haunting, and sometimes maniacally danceable excursions into avant-tango/Balkan/cabaret all on their own.
But throw the monologues of David Greenberger into the mix and you have something else - a curious kind of radio theatre. Greenberger is the man behind the 30-year-old "Duplex Planet" empire of 'zines, books, comix, and music all based on real interviews with nursing home residents. The Torso's music necessarily takes somewhat of a back seat to Greenberger, but shades and enhances the stories - some sad, many funny - like a film score.

Greenberger has worked with other musicians (his recent "Growing Old In East LA" radio project features music by members of Los Lobos), but he's done two full albums with 3 Leg Torso, "Whispers, Grins, Bloodloss and Handshakes," (2005) and 2004s' "Legibly Speaking."
As with any "Duplex Planet"-related project, however, the old folks are really the stars of the show. Many tracks on these albums are brief (around one minute), filled with pathos but still really funny:
David Greenberger & 3 Leg Torso: "Miss Dog Miss Me"
The elderly, as I've said before, are "uncool" in our eternal-youth oriented culture and, hence, almost invisible in the media. So Greenberger & co. really hit the jackpot with Alfred, a 100 -year-old man who's sharp as a tack and truly filled with the wisdom of the ages. This dude's cooler then everything on MTV combined:
David Greenberger & 3 Leg Torso: "Perpetual Motion"

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


From France, the land that gave us Roger Roger and Jean-Jacques Perrey, comes an equally nutty band of 'tard-tronic pranksters, Thiaz Itch, whose album "Binjoum" is available as a free download courtesy of the whimsical Proot 'net label, who also sport releases from Ergo Phizmiz and satanicpornocultshop.

If the Carl Stalling song I posted a few days ago whetted your appettite for more cartoonish foolishness, then you will want to proceed immediately to Proot-land and grab this short 'n' sweet collection, which also boasts a Syd Barrett cover, a Mozart re-working, and a couple of calypsos that sound more like the Residents in a Carribean mood then anything you'd actually hear in Trinidad.

Thiaz Itch: "Binjoum"
Thiaz Itch: "Froggy Swamp"