Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Conceptual Crank-Calls of "Conversations"

Brandon Locher's "Conversations 2012" is a near-20 minute tour de force that does for prank phone calls what "The Velvet Underground & Nico" did for rock 'n' roll, uncovering unexpected depth and scope in what had been dismissed as childish nonsense.

What he basically did was call a store in a Johnstown, PA shopping mall and then did not speak. The "Hello? Hello" etc. response was recorded and then played to another shopkeeper in the same mall. Then their bewildered response was recorded and played for whoever answered the phone at yet another store in the same mall, and so on, until this game of tag went throughout the mall.

It does what a crank call is supposed to do - makes ya laff! - but there's much more going on here. It's ingeniously constructed, a well-edited piece of sound-collage, if nothing else. It's also a snapshot of corporate retail culture - jeez, the long greetings they make these poor kids say when they answer the phone! 

Then there's the fact that no-one answering the phone knows that they're speaking to a recording.  Everyone thinks that they're having a real conversation.  Between guffaws, Mrs Fab said to me that this is somewhat of an illustration of the cold-reading method that con-artists use to convince suckers that they have psychic powers, based on the fact that people generally say and act in very limited, predictable ways, even tho we like to think that we are very free-thinking, unique individuals.

Best of all - it's really funny. Listen/download here:

Brandon Locher "Conversations 2012"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Modern Purveyors Of Filth And Degradation: A New Music Roundup

So, so many albums out there! And some of them are even good!  Wish I had time to dedicate one post to each one, but due to the usual time constraints, here's another mix of recent (or recent to me) albums for Maniacs, available for purchase or free download, or both. Not much avant-heaviness this time out, but lots of summer-fun silly/strange excuses for pop music here. 

Modern Purveyors Of Filth And Degradation

1. Neon Lushell "Leave Me Alone" - these Midwesterners have recently dropped one of the albums of the year, I sez, in "Modern Purveyors Of Filth And Degradation (In A Time Of Peace And Understanding)". It moves from the Ministry-like bangin' album opener featured here, to dark ambient, surreal soundscapes, and twisted folk. "Dark music" without a hint of the usual cliches, e.g.: death-metal, Joy Division soundalikes, etc. A lot of self-described "strange" or "experimental" artists submit music to me, but most of it lacks the originality and imagination of these sick kitties.

2. Jan Turkenburg "droodle20110809[F***TheMeaningOfLife]" - Wonderful sound-collage from the nutty Dutchman who's been posting a series of similiar cut-and-paste "droodles" on the the ever-crucial PCL Linkdump.

3. Bob Purse "It's Not A Regular Day" - Shamelessly silly-but-swell novelty tune from The Many Moods of Bob, the recent debut album compiling many years worth of home recordings from the great music blogger Bob Purse. The man even does covers of song-poems, forpetessake.

4. Lydia Kavina "Free Music #1 (1936)" - From the album "Music from the Ether: Original Works for Theremin" by the grand-niece of Leon Theremin himself, and sometimes member of bizarro surf band Messer Chups. Excellent stuff - if you buy one theremin album in your life, buy this one. 

5. Ace of Clubs "Rehab Dem Bones " - a Herman Munster vs Amy Winehouse mashup collected off the internet.  You'll laff!

6. DmR of AtoZ "Get Up" - Another mashup, this takes numerous Beatles vocals and expertly drops them over the bassline to Tom Waits "Step Right Up." From the on-line collection "You Can't Mash That vol 28" (which I haven't actually heard, just this song.)

7. the archaeologist "pouvons-nous avoir un cendrier" - This album "parlez vous francais?" is based on a French language instruction tape (+ beats, music), which gets to be a bit much after a while.  Works great in short doses tho, like this yummy truffle that also throws in bits of Gil-Scott Herons' "Whitey's On The Moon."

8. Covox "Computer Love" - from 8-Bit OPERATORS-An 8-Bit Tribute To Kraftwerk

9. The Fire Organ "Little Fishes" - Quirky pop tune that's quite good despite the off-key singing; from an album ("Dumbed Out") that doesn't seem to be on-line any more. Hmm, maybe he's re-cutting the vocals...

10. Ban This Sick Filth "Powerhouse" - Raymond Scott's 1937 cartoon classic gets a boomin' remix courtesy of this offshoot of London mash-masters Celebrity Murder Party.

11. Greg Reinfeld "Pink Ballerina" - This highly prolific free-internet-album guy's latest is "Poorest Almanac That Ever Lived".

12. Hanetration "Rex" - Taking a breather from all this silliness, this is from the all-too-brief 4 track FREE! download release "Tenth Oar" of evocative, compelling ambiance.

13. Snaps 'n' Claps "Soldier Boyfriend" - Charming Casio girl-pop that may be more knowing than it lets on beneath its naive presentation. From their Feeding Tube cd-r "Greatest Hits."

14. Maladroit "Musicbox Jungle (Negrobeat Remix)" - Hysterical break-core collision of the '70s E-Z instro "Music Box Dancer" with that '90s 'Mr. Boombastic' song, as all heck breaks loose. Australians seem to be good at this sorta thing.

15. 1001 "Nieszczesliwa milosc, hej!" - This Polish gent hipped me to some outsider music from his land, and when I checked out his own stuff, I found this song, which makes awesome use of loops of people laughing.

16. Moose A. Moose & Zee D. Bird "Everywhere I Go" - If you have kids, you probably know this insanely catchy tune from the video that used to be shown often on the Nick Jr network. It's not available for sale, or as an mp3 anywhere, so I recorded it off a YouTube video and it came out surprisingly well. Do you know how many people want this?! Esp. since apparently Nick Jr has stopped showing the Moose & Zee bits. I am doing a public service! 

17. Janek Schaefer "Recorded Delivery [7" edit]" - From London comes this jaw-dropping artifact: a tape-recorder sealed in a box and mailed, which then recorded everything. "Recorded Delivery is a sound activated tape recording of parcel travelling through the Post Office system...The sound reactive dictaphone automatically edited the 15 hour journey to a 72 minute recording, capturing only the most sonically interesting elements of the journey."

18. Mari L. McCarthy "Weekend In New England" - This amateur tribute to '70s schlock crooner Barry Manilow entitled (hoo boy) "The Barry Thought Of You," sent to us by our frequent contributor windy, would be awful enough, but then on this song she goes and splices in the voice of Barry himself to create a Natalie/Nat Cole-like exercise in outsider horror.  Why, windy, why??

19. Willful Devices "Lattice XVIIb" - This 2-man-band (electronics & clarinet/woodwinds) go absolutely nuts on this track. Free-improv can be fun!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Earliest Known Recorded Music in Existence

Yep, only three known copies of this Edison wax cylinder from 1888 exist, which would certainly make this one of the most historically prized recordings ever.  But it's also a good listen. 

The "song" heard here is an excerpt from classical composer Handel's "Israel In Egypt" sung by, to quote a note on the cylinder: "A chorus of 4000 voices recorded with phonograph over 100 yards away." Conducted by August Manns; recorded by Col. George Gouraud, foreign sales agent for Thomas Edison at the Crystal Palace, London, England, June 29, 1888.

A hundred yards away?!  At first I thought: 'a hundred feet away', the length of a football field, but no, it says 'yards.' Dang, that's far. So what does it sound like?  Pretty avant-garde, actually - the white-noise of the cylinder whirring around melded with the huge distant choir is a strange and haunting sound, indeed. Not too far removed from something you might hear on a Zoviet France or Nurse With Wound album. Knowing that these are actual voices from the 1800s adds a ghostly mystery to the experience.

Handel festival: "Israel In Egypt" - excerpt

(Courtesy of archive.org.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Thanks to Mrs Fab for sending me a link to this hilarious/awful home-made music video of an old guy named William Tapely singing about...I'm not really sure, even tho its title would lead us to assume it's an endorsement of the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Tho it's all-too-short at 1:59, it has still left us with much to contemplate:

- The Casio-riffic keyboard stylings and cartoon-character vocals

- Dig them backgrounds!

- Someone's really going to town on the rinky-dink drum machine...hey, what the hell time signature is this song in anyhow?  I tried counting it out and gave up.

- Gibberish lyrics with no rhymes or sense of rhythm.

- Abrupt ending

Now this guy's a hero in my mind.

Monday, July 23, 2012


I didn't know that the American South was still producing bizarre roots-rock spazz-attacks like the Nashville combo The Chewers. By the 80's, the South seemed to be all REM and their followers, and the days of Southern-fried wack-jobs like the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Hasil Adkins, or even Southern Culture on the Skids seemed to be gone forever.

The Chewers share The Cramps instrumental line-up - twang guitar, fuzz guitar, primitive drums, no bass - but seem to be coming more from Beefheart than rockabilly, e.g.: check the positively Vliet-y vocals on "Human Scum." In fact, you should just check out "Human Scum" anyway cuz it totally rules.

Elsewhere, they sing an acapella/finger-snapping ode to eating too many pancacks, "Who Ra" sounds like a werewolf is contributing lead vocals, and "Swamp Drag 2" answers the musical question 'What would the Residents have sounded like if they had never left Louisiana?'

It's not a perfect album: track 4 was when it finally started to get good for me, and the vocals sometimes lack spark.  But for the most part it's fascinating, unpredictable, and doesn't sound much like anything else I've heard lately.  Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Free download of the 18 track album here:

The Chewers "Every Drop Disorganized"

Friday, July 20, 2012


No, "Infantcore" isn't some new indie-rock sub-genre. It's a roomful of babies whose movements trigger electronic sounds. It took place earlier this year at the Machine Project space in Los Angeles. Blogger doesn't let you post vimeo vids, so check it out here:

Infantcore video

The man behind this, experimental compser Scott Cazan recently did something similar in San Francisco called Dogcore.  Couldn't find any documentation of that, tho.

Baby Fab was already too old to take part in Infantcore. Hey Scott, how 'bout some Toddlercore next time, eh?

Thursday, July 19, 2012


You may have heard the distressing news today that Fred Willard, a fine comic actor whose work I've always enjoyed, was arrested for performing an obscene public act at a porn theater on Santa Monica Blvd called the Tiki Theater. I used to be intrigued by the place because of the cool tiki signage, til I read about it online. Blech. Smoking crack and doing nasty things to each other seem to be what the patrons go for, not, unfortunately, imbibing umbrella drinks in a tropical environment whilst wearing Hawaiian shirts and listening to music like this 1959 gem (recorded off my red-colored vinyl copy!) from the one-man-band master of organ exotica, Korla Pandit.  It is, like much of Pandit's music (and '50s/'60s exotica in general) rich in haunting and mysterious atmosphere:

[UPDATE 7/31: New Link:]
Korla Pandit "Tropical Magic"

(After clicking the above link, scroll down for a choice of downloading options. You may have to wait a few secs.)

1. The Breeze And I
2. Blue Moon
3. Lovely Hula Hands
4. Trade Winds
5. Tabu
6. Lotus Love
7. Moon Of Manikoora
8. Strange Enchantment
9. Poinciana
10. Tango In D

Pandit wasn't really Indian, as he had always claimed, but was in fact an American black guy named John Roland Redd, a fact not revealed until after his death.  Which was quite a shock to me - I'd actually met and spoken with the man in the '90s when he was performing around town with the Wonderful World of Joey neo-lounge revue, and never doubted his story.  No-one did. He spoke to me in a soft Indian accent, and still wore the bejewelled turban that was his trademark when he used to perform daily on L.A. television back in the '50s.

So let's reclaim the Tiki Theater from the crack-heads and pervs, and put on real tiki shows. That sign's too good to waste. Do it for Korla!  Or whatever his name was!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Garbage-Men

If I may just speak like a Rat-Pack era showbiz-type for a moment and say, "Marvelous stuff what the kids these days are doing." Especially when the kids are some Sarasota, Florida teenagers making their own instruments out of junk. Too bad they've only got one song up for listening/purchase right now, a delightfully messed-up version of Elvis' "Hound Dog," scored for cereal box-guitars, garbage drums, a saxophone made from a popcorn push toy, and the miracle of the Glass Bottle Idiophone:


This interview features bits of other songs (also oldies remakes), as does this video, which includes a bitchin' version of The Surfaris' "Wipeout," as well as an up-close look at those nutty instruments:

I'd take this ramshackle version of "Satisfaction" over the Stone's any day:

But what do they use for strings?  Regular guitar strings?  And will they ever cover The Cramps?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

An Opera About A Guy Who Mistook his Wife For A Hat

Michael Nyman is one of my favorite minimalist composers  - heck he invented the term 'minimalism' - and, apart from his soggy score to the film "The Piano" (his most popular work, of course) he's been a visionary pioneer in the field of experimental "alternative classical" music.  But this 1986 opera is pretty weird even for Nyman. As somewhat of a follow-up to my "athientertainment" post from last week that WFMU said "could make even an avowed athiest hate evolution," this work demonstrates the difficulty of making music about science.

It's based on the popular book by Dr. Oliver Sacks about bizarre neurological disorders. Sure, there's some great music - the melody introduced in "(That's Why) I'm Here" is excellent.  But hearing an opera singer belting out lines like "He's mistaken his wife for a haaaaaat!" is, well, odd. And kinda funny, tho I don't think it's meant to be. That's edu-tainment!

Michael Nyman - "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat"

(After clicking the above link, scroll down for a choice of downloading options. You may have to wait a few secs.)

Monday, July 09, 2012

Mr. T's Commandments

Mr. T was made for love.  And if you don't believe me, watch him push someone down an elevator shaft in the vid below.

A pre-gangsta rap star Ice T worked on this album. I wonder if Mr. and Ice are related?  They share the same last name...

Back in my '80s boyhood, me and some friends saw Mr. T at a sporting event. One of the guys went up and asked him to autograph his program.  He just wrote a big "T".

Mr. T's Commandments (1984)

(After clicking the above link, scroll down for a choice of downloading options. You may have to wait a few secs.)
  1. "Mr. T's Commandment" - 4:59
  2. "Don't Talk to Strangers" - 5:12
  3. "The Toughest Man in the World" - 3:55
  4. "Mr. T, Mr. T (He Was Made for Love)" - 3:21
  5. "The One and Only Mr. T" - 4:46
  6. "No Dope No Drugs" - 4:36
  7. "You Got to Go Through It" - 4:27
  8. BONUS TRACK! Mr. T's Commandments (Instrumental)

Friday, July 06, 2012

That's Athientertainment!

If Christian and religious music is a niche market, the pro-science/atheist music scene is practically microscopic. I bought a few CDs recently that are for sale from outlets like the Center For Inquiry and The Freedom From Religion Foundation.  Yep, they have gift shops, too.  Good timing: now that the Higgs Boson particle has been found, our ideas of physics (The Standard Model) have been confirmed, which means we pretty much know what the universe is made out of.  Pat yourself on the back, human race!

Dr. Stephen Baird of Stanford University is an actual scientist, as well as being the frontman for The Opposums Of Truth and The Galapagos Mountain Boys.  I generally find his style of music - hillbilly/bluegrass - kinda irritating, what with all them high screechy voices and plinckety-plunkety banjos and fiddles and whatnot.  But, somewhat to my surprise, I started diggin' these albums ("Darwin, Darn It!" and "Ain't Gonna Be No Judgement Day: Scientific Gospel") after a couple spins. Really well played, and it's always funny hearing technical jargon sung with enthusiasm.

The Voices Of Reason are a Los Angeles a capella vocal group, here covering/rewriting "The Hallelujah Chorus" and the old "Negro" spiritual "Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho." I saw 'em open for Julia Sweeney's show "Letting Go of God" a few years ago.

And here's some songs from previous posts that have since gone off-line:

Anthropologist Richard Milner: "Charles Darwin: Live and In Concert" is channeling the great naturalist thu witty, upbeat original songs with rapid-fire rhymes that would give eminem a run for his money. I hear the likes of Noel Coward, Cole Porter and his admitted heroes GIlbert & Sullivan.

Dan Barker is an atheist satirical songwriter, like a one-topic Randy Newman or Warren Zevon. He's released several albums, including "Beware of Dogma."  It features "My God is in My Soul," a brilliant track by Michael Newdow, the guy who tried to remove the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance (who has a pretty interesting CD himself). It includes samples of profane voice mail messages left by furious Christians. They're not just dropped onto music, but are ingeniously integrated into the lyrics of the mock-reverent "hymn." The result walks that hilarious/disturbing line. "Fleas" is a parody of Joyce Kilmer's poem about how I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree, blah blah blah.

Baba Brinkman (a Canadian, eh!) first appeared in these pages with his rap version of The Canterbury Tales. His album "The Rap Guide To Evolution," (available from his site) is, well, just that. It's scientifically accurate, musically solid, even funny sometimes. But dealing with biological complexities can make the songs amazingly wordy, e.g.: the finely funky song posted, set at a dinner table as our hero tries to reason with a stubbornly unscientific family. I'm certainly aware of the large number of religious creationists out there, but the feminist who says gender has no basis in science threw me for a loop. Are there still people who think like that? I thought that was a relic of '70s hippie-dom.

"A Brief History of Rhyme: MC Hawking's Greatest Hits": Stephen Hawking: brilliant physicist, considered the heir to Newton and Einstein; crippled by Lou Gehrig's disease, he speaks thru a voice synthesizer. MC Hawking: his hard-core hip-hip alter ego. So someone gets ahold of the type of voice synthesizer Dr. Hawking uses and records a buncha profanity-laden rap songs. About science. Sounds like it might be funny for maybe 30 seconds, right? Guess again Einstein, this is genius - whoever is behind this knows both his science AND his hip-hop. The debut album "A Brief History Of Rhyme" is dripping with tunes both hilarious and (I hate to say it) even sorta educational..Funny, righteous, boomin' beats. "Entropy" is a parody of Naughty By Nature's "OPP" (with another dig at Creationism thrown in), "What We Need More of is Science" peels New Age kooks' caps back, and "UFT For The MC" is The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy In The UK" with new lyrics reflecting the Hawkman's quest for a Unified Field Theory. The real Stephen Hawking is aware of this project and has given it his blessing.

Athientertainment: a MusicForManiacs mix

(After clicking the above link, scroll down for a choice of downloading options. You may have to wait a few secs.)
1. The Galapagos Mountain Boys - Walk Down In The Water
2. The Voices Of Reason - The Evolution Chorus

3. Richard Milner - Darwins Nightmare
4. Dan Barker - Fleas
5. Dr. Stephen Baird And The Opposums Of Truth - Randomness Is Good Enough For Me
6. MC Hawking - Fuck the Creationists
7. Baba Brinkman - Creationist Cousins 2.0
8. Dan Barker - My God is in My Soul
9. The Voices Of Reason - Battle 'Tween Church And State
10. Richard Milner - Why Didn't I?
11. Dr. Stephen Baird And The Opposums Of Truth - I Have Seen Evolution With My Own Two Eyes