Friday, September 28, 2012

Particle Man, Particle Man...

So what's the big deal about scientists claiming that they think they've found the Higgs boson particle? It was the missing piece of the Standard Model of physics, and now that it's been (hopefully) found, it means that our general understanding of how the universe works is correct.  So that's pretty awesome. Let's celebrate by listening to music made by taking the mathematics of it all and assigning each number a musical value. The result is a very peppy tune for piano, bass, marimba, percussion, and xylophone sounds.

I find it kind of hard to believe that a sub-atomic particle sounds like a lounge mambo, but, hey, I'm no physicist. (And if sub-atomic particles really do sound like lounge mambos, well then the universe is far more wonderful than I ever imagined.) It's not very long - only about 2-and-a-half minutes - but the boson is a pretty small particle.

Domenico Vicinanza: Higgs Boson Sonification

This is not the first time we've featured music from the CERN/Large Hadron Collider posse. Four years ago we wrote about the "Large Hadron Rap," and back in '06 we covered the first band on the web. Brooklyn? Austin? Feh!  The CERN scene is where it's happenin', baby.

(This is still the only music blog with a 'science' category, right?)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Help A Brutha Out

Let's check the in-box, shall we?

"Dear Mr. Fab,
      Good day! I'm a reader of your blog and an ardent lover of exceptional music. For the past year, I have been on a relentless search for a very unusual band, and I am hoping that perhaps you could help. In short, about a year ago I chanced to hear two short songs that have haumted me ever since. The music was simple, strange, like a primitive Velvet Underground, with the words sung in a depressive monotone. It was definitely the lyrics that caught me the most, deadpan honest and sad, like a suicide note set to music- somewhat in the vein of Jandek. I wasn't able to catch the name of the band, but the primitive truth of it definitely fit the criteria of 'outsider' music. Despite a wide and varied knowledge of music, and a year of searching, I've yet to find them- my only hope is that by some chance another connoisseur will have been lucky enough to know of them. Is there any chance that you know the band I'm talking about? I seem to remember the lyrics were something like 'Everything I felt in life was someone else's bad joke', with the chorus 'All I wanted was a place in the sun.' This was the kind of music that changes your life, and I would be eternally grateful for your help in this. Thank you, and please keep up the good work.

Best regards,
Z. Colombino"

I wrote back: "Your description of the music/singer sounds like Beat Happening, but I don't remember any really depressing songs of theirs like that, the lyrics don't ring a bell" and he replied: "Yeah they are very reminiscent of beat happening, definitely similar to the twee-pop school musically. I've come to realize they defy classification- for any similarity they have with another band, they're completely different in ten other ways. If I had to guess the era I'd say late 70's-80's...I'd thought maybe Edinburgh post-punk at one point? Orange Juice is another very similar band."

And so we turn to you, dear readers. Anyone?


The six hours of Zoogz Rift & His Amazing Shitheads mega-post from earlier this year is back on-line.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Country Music For Fat, Unpopular People

Meade Skelton is an outsider musician from Richmond, Virginia whose album  "They Can't Keep Me Down" mostly deals with his struggles with weight, and how no-one likes him, e.g.: "I Love To Eat (And It Shows)" and "It's Hard To Love Yourself (When Everybody Hates You)". He feels left out of the music world, loves mom and God, and doesn't like sleazy, degenerate rock 'n' rollers or too-cool hipsters (e.g.: the song "Proud To Be A Square").  His lightweight electric piano-driven songs lean towards the slick, commercial side of country music, and when he stays within his vocal range, he actually has an okay voice, tho hardly worthy of his own Elvis and Sinatra comparisons. Trouble is, he doesn't always stick to his range.

This album, so I'm told, is strongly influenced by Laura Branigan, of all people. Remember her, she did that "Gloria, I think they got your number" song?  Supposedly "Beautiful Lady" is a reworking of Branigan's "Solitaire," adding new lyrics about (of course) being fat and unwanted. 

There is some weak singing here and the songwriting occasionally gets terrible indeed, so it's easy to laugh at this guy, but there is also pathos in "They Called Me Porker," about the taunting he endured as a child. And some pretty smooth session musicians keep it all sounding almost respectable.

On "Songs of Love" he goes lounge - it's an album of mostly amateurish covers of standards, e.g.: "My Funny Valentine," but includes some originals, like the stalker-ish ode to actress Nicole Kidman, "Nicole, Will You Marry Me?" Wow, is this one a head-scratcher. Kidman may want to consider a restraining order. An unnerving yodel/voice-cracking vocal style pervades this album, and the stripped-down production reveals his uncertain piano playing. Oh, my ears! If "They Can't Keep Me Down" has you feeling sorry for the poor sap, "Songs of Love" will make you want to join the haters.

Skelton has gained somewhat of a reputation on the internets thru his relentless self-promotion, often going by other names, claiming on message boards to be a "fan" of Skelton with a "need for Meade!" when it's pretty obvious that it's Skelton himself. Some are annoyed by this behaviour, others amused. But that's what's great about him - he has unwavering faith in his talent, and maintains an upbeat attitude towards life. No whiney goth or sensitive singer-songwriter stuff for Meade - despite the unfortunate circumstances of his life, he keeps a grin on his face.

He has some albums that he's selling independently, and since they're in print, I'm only gonna take a couple/few songs apiece from these two abums (the only two of his that I have).

Mead Skelton Sampler

1. Beautiful Lady
2. What's So Great About Rock N' Roll?
3. Your Old Hay
4. Nicole, Will You Marry Me?
5. My Funny Valentine

Want to hear more? 'Course you do!  Preview his albums on iTunes. And join the Mead Skelton Fan Club while you're at it! 2215 Floyd Ave., Richmond, VA 23220; (804) 359-0219.

UPDATE 9/24/12: We heard from the man himself: Meade would like you to know that he has a new album, likes and is influenced by Laura Branigan but not on this particular album, and does not go around spamming boards under assumed names. So there. I stand corrected.

From one of his other albums, here's the "hit" single, "Hipsters Ruin Everything":

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Dubuque Strange Music Society

The excellent Neon Lushell album that I wrote about recently was my first clue that strange things are afoot in Iowa. Turns out that it was just the tip of the iceberg: Dubuque experimental music maven Bob Bucko Jr. (aka BBJr) sent me a shoebox's worth of cassettes (and one vinyl), as well as a couple of 'zines, that all make a persuasive case for the Iowa experimental music scene. None of it sucks, much of it's exceptional.

You've got yer "A" list music cities that might be major (New York, LA, Berlin, London) or towns with smaller populations that, nonetheless, boast outsized musical reputations (Athens GA, Austin TX, Sheffield UK). And then you got yer "B" cities that no-one's paying any attention to, tho they have folks just as creative as can be found in any of the big boys. Dubuque falls into the latter - noise, ambient, drone, improv, rock, found sounds, all get thrown in the blender whilst steadfastly avoiding cliches. Mr. Bucko has prepared a sampler cd for free download for y'alls:

Personal Archives Digital Mixtape

This collection starts off with a track that resembles "rock" music, before moving into thoroughly unpredictable territory by such artists as Implied Consent, Dead Man's Lifestyle, Distant Trains, and more from BBJr. Instrumentals predominate, veering from crunchy distortion to chilled electronics, sometimes both. BBJr's "At The Bar" recalls '70s cosmic Moog records; Aisle's "crest, fallen" could be one of Nurse With Wound's abstract, but humorous collages, with Chipmunk-y vox over unidentified sounds. The Floating Cave track is an ominous drone that really did make me feel like I was in a deep, dark cave. And Aural Resuscitation Unit's "Dubbing An Arab" isn't the reggae remix of The Cure that one would expect from such a title; it does sound like a (heavily processed) skipping record that might be the Cure, but who can tell? Whatever it is, it's 16 minutes of trippy amazing-ness.

Some of my fave stuff from this scene is only for purchase, like this one:

"On and On We Sing Our Song"

Well worth the mere few bucks it costs for BBJr's fascinating loop-driven sound collages. The industrial-strength funk of "Time is Something" is also worth your pennies. And another band not included on this cd are the Glimmer Blinkken, whose downtown New York c. 1981 sound comes closest to "normal" music.

The history of the scene outlined in the "Ruix" 'zines reveal that many of these cats come from a typical metal/rock background.  So how did they end up here?  To quote from the zine's new blog: "Like most river towns, Dubuque is teeming with personality, and its residents utilize the cultural vacuum of the midwest to great effect. Without an academy to report to or the bored shrugs of scene- conscious youth to deflect, folks in Dubuque have cultivated a diverse portfolio of artistic expression." Do scenes like this exist all over?  Is there some crazy stuff in, say, Missoula, Montana that I should know about?

For further exploration:
Captcha Records
Dubuque Strange Music Society and

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Greatest Things I've Ever Seen

The greatest thing I've ever seen (lately) is this excerpt from "Multiple SIDosis," a famous short from 1970 by outsider filmmaker Sid Laverents that was just posted on-line two weeks ago. Laverents uses ingenious home-brew technology to create a cinematic one-man band performance of the bouncy tune "Nola" on such instruments/noise-makers as the metronome, ukulele, banjo, ocarina, jews harp, beer bottles, pipes, and cymbal, while sometimes inexplicably dressed like Mickey Mouse. Restores my faith in humanity. 

There are full-length versions of "Multiple SIDosis" on the YouTubes of poopy quality.  This is just a minute-and-a-half, but it looks really good:

The other greatest thing I've ever seen lately is a large Japanese avant-jazz band who, for reasons known only to them, dress up like shrimp, with glow-in-the-dark eyes. I'll just let you think about that for a moment...
They're called Autopsy Report of Drowned Shrimp (sure, why not?) and there is, lucky you, a number of live vids up of their skillfully performed music, which ranges from percussive-heavy tribal grooves, to trippy noise drones, to something that resembles funk/jazz, all mixed with inscrutable ritualistic theater: 
The other other greatest thing I've ever seen happened a couple of weeks ago, when I was emerging from a subway station on my way home from work: A black man dressed like a lady in a hot-pink skirt and a short-haired silver wig was standing around, which, in itself, is not so unusual around here.  But then, then, when a Mexican mama and her two kids walked by, the kids ran up to the ladyman shouting: "Gaga! Lady Gaga! Gaga!"
To a man. 
A black man. 
S/he smiled and waved at them, as I quickly walked to the parking lot trying to stifle my explosive laughter.  And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why living in L.A. rules. Think they see stuff like this coming from work in Missouri? They probably just see, like, Walmarts 'n' shit. I should keep a camera on my person at all times...

Friday, September 07, 2012

Rodney On The ROQ vol. 5

When I created and posted "Rodney on the ROQ Vol 4", a reader commented: "This is one of the greatest compilations ever created by man, woman, or beast." So there! I probably shouldn't try to top that, but a super awesome reader named L9 sent me the Ventures/GoGos collab song "Surfin' and Spyin", thereby making a follow-up necessary. So, once again, here's a sampling of (for the most part) rare, obscure punk, power-pop, synth, novelties, oldies, reggae, and experimental oddities that legendary freeform radio DJ Rodney Bingenheimer used to play in his 'late '70s/'80s heyday on KROQ Los Angeles. Lot's of non-lp 7" singles/EPs here.

Took quite a bit of doing trying to track down some of these tunes that I remembered fondly from my youth but had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. (The Untouchables tune, in particular was a real bee-yatch to find.) But, no matter, here 'tis - Radio as it should be! 

Rodney On The ROQ vol. 5 (Zippyshare)

01 Longarm - Wall of Voodoo
02 Want You - The Bangles [They used to be good, really!]
03 Little G.T.O. - Rodney and the Brunettes [Rodney himself sings (sort of) this surf oldie]
04 Surfin' & Spyin' - The Ventures covering, and joined by, The Go-Gos
05 Shes Fallen in Love With a Monster Man - The Revillos
06 Beyond and Back (Live) - X [From "The Decline of Western Civilization" soundtrack, I believe]
07 Helium Bar - The Weirdos
08 Beer - Unit 3 And Venus [feat. 8 year old lead singer!]
09 Too Young To Date - D-Day [There was a lame censored version of this song, as well]
10 California Paradise - The Runaways [in a Runaways doc film from a few years ago, Kim Fowley revealed that Rodney would cruise the Starwood club where he dj-ed to recruit future members of The Runaways by approaching young girls and asking them if they played an instrument]
11 Kookie's Mad Pad - Edd ''Kookie'' Byrnes
12 Sit on my face Stevie Nix - The Rotters [Rodney said that he had to get special permission from station management to play this naughty tune]
13 Janitor - Suburban Lawns [Where in the world is Su Tissue?]
14 Shoulder Pads - The Fall [Rodney would play this song, then offer his assesment of '80s fashion by opining: "I like this song, but I don't like shoulder pads!"]
15 Vox Wah Wah ad - feat. The Electric Prunes
16 Blues' Theme - Davie Allan & the Arrows [theme to the classic '60s biker-sploitation flick "The Wild Angels"]
17 The General - The Untouchables
18 Punky Reggae Party  - Bob Marley & The Wailers [co-written by Lee "Scratch" Perry]
19 Anything, Anything (I'll Give You) - Dramarama
20 Disneyland - The Eyes [feat. future Go-Go Charlotte Caffey]
21 Springtime for Hitler - Mel Brooks [Rodney would say that every time he played this, some girl would call up to complain; he never stopped playing it, tho]
22 Pay To Cum - Bad Brains
23 I Hate The 90's - Rodney & The Tube Tops [another single featuring Rodney's vocal , er, "skills," this one featuring Thurston from Sonic Youth]
24 Porpoise Song (theme from "Head") - The Monkees [Rodney's traditional closing theme]

Thursday, September 06, 2012

REPOST: RMI Harmonic Synthesizer Album

'Twas requested a while back that we re-post this extremely obscure bit of '70s electronica, but - alas! - the file was lost.  Sorry for the delay, but many thanks to kind reader Aaron for sending us this.

RMI Harmonic Synthesizer And Keyboard Computer

And thanks again to Jake Lion for sending us this album in the first place.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Tomorrow, Sept. 5th, would have been John Cage's 100th birthday. Perhaps the most monumental figure in experimental music history, Cage and his legacy are being explored all over the world right now - tho, we here in L.A. can crow that we birthed the guy. The pieces on this album do go back to his early years, 1939-1943, to be exact. And what wonderful pieces they are, ranging from prepared pianos - pianos with stuff stuck on the strings - merrily plinkety-plunking away ("Amores"), to what could be African tribal music played on kitchen implements ("Double Music," featuring fellow California maverick Lou Harrison), to the haunting female vox of "She Is Asleep." "Imaginary Landscape no. 2" is scored for "tin cans, conch shell, ratchet, bass drum, buzzers, water gong, metal wastebasket, lion's roar and amplified coil of wire."  It's all performed with verve by fine French folks the Helios Quartet.

Cage's conceptual breakthoughs were still a few years down the road, but, on a purely musical level, these works clearly established him as a stunningly original talent. His place in history was already assured, and this was just the warm-up.

John Cage: Works for Percussion (1991)

Second construction [1940] (7:29)
Imaginary landscape no. 2 [1942] (5:22)
Amores [1943] (9:43)
Double music [1941] (4:39)
Third construction [1941] (10:06)
She is asleep [1943] (11:40)
First construction (in metal) [1939] (10:03)

New to Cage? There are a number of other great albums out there (that I won't post here because they are either in print or shared on other blogs) that I highly recommend:

"Indeterminacy" (1959) - Zen stand-up comedy; this is where Laurie Anderson got her schtick.

"Williams Mix" (1953) and "Fontana Mix" (1958) - deftly edited sound collages, ages before sampling/hip-hop/mashups, etc; and far more complex.

"In A Landscape" - more early works for gentle pianos; ambient music starts here (bonus points for, on one track, using a toy piano)

"Radio Music" (1956) - does what it says on the tin - performers "play" radios, and no other instruments.

There's plenty more, but that's off the top of my head. are you celebrating?  Getting together with friends to put on 4'33" ? I'll try to make it to one of these shows - anyone gonna make all 24 hours of Satie's Vexations?