Friday, November 30, 2012

ALBUM DU JOUR #3: Tiny Tim Plays In Your Living Room

Tim from Radio Clash asked me if I had the Tiny Tim/Bruce Haack album "Zoot Zoot Zoot Here Comes Santa In His New Space Suit." Alas, I don't - do any of you out there have this true meeting of outsider musical minds?  It's as rare as a complete dinosaur skeleton, and about as expensive. But the query did send me poking thru the Tiny Tim things that I do have, such as this extraordinary tape of some anonymous person recording what is apparently a concert for one in Tiny's apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Just a man and his ukulele - and you are there!

The first song sounds like the mic is a little too far away, and Tiny isn't quite warmed up on the early tracks, frequently consulting sheet music, but then he really gets rolling. Yes, he was a truly strange individual, his fluke late-'60s popularity resulting in as much ridicule as acclaim for the troubled troubadour. But this "Tim unplugged" tape serves as a much-needed corrective to the idea that Tiny was just some comical oddball. This is Professor Tim in action here, as much scholar as entertainer, a walking repository of obscure Tin Pan Alley, hillbilly, Broadway, British music hall, and novelty songs from as far back as the 1800s that had gone largely unheard until Tiny found their sheet music.

Comic songs like "I Used To Call Her Baby" and "When They're Old Enough To Know Better" are my faves, and I'd love to hear a complete version of "After The Ball," as it sounds like a lovely waltz. They're not all antiquities - his pals the Beatles (yep, he was that famous  for a while) are saluted with a version of "Yesterday" that doesn't sound all that different from the rest of the selections. And that's about the only song here you're liable to recognize, except maybe for Dean Martin's "You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You," and the jazz standard "Dancing In The Dark."  To quote his first album title, God bless Tiny Tim.

Tiny Tim: Tiny's apartment, 1976 (28 tracks: complete songs, as well as fragments)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

ALBUM(S) DU JOUR #2: Experimental Music From A 3-Year-Old Girl

These free/name-your-price download albums come from a Land Down Under. First, it's:


featuring 3-4 year-old Indigo Loki Aurora singing about butterflys and elephants, joined by her father A D MacHine, who, I thought at first, was sampling and looping her voice, but in fact it's all done "live with a loop pedal and a studio full of junk - drums, guitars, saucepan lids, violins, toy pianos, bells, etc etc." Any music featuring 3-year-old girls automatically rules, but daddy did a nice job crafting this adorableness into a very listenable bit of rock minimalism. Was kinda puzzled on first listen, but by second spin, I loved it. Pick to click: "Molly Malone."

8-year-old Louis Amos (drums, vocals) and his uncle Troy Naumoff (guitar) are


In contrast to the hynotic minimalism of Stinky Picnic, these two offer up a 28-minute slab of live noise rock maximalism. What it lacks in cuteness, it makes up for with big-boy brashness. Louis sounds pretty self-assured for such a young 'un, knocking out songs with titles like "Dragon Vomit." There's more Electric Fence towards the bottom of this page. Uncle Troy sez: "Louis pretty much writes all the songs...we start our 'sessions' by me asking him for an idea, be it a song title or melody which he'll hum or sing to me.
Then he gets me to record guitar parts (or bass lines - all on baritone guitar, drum patterns, keys etc.) which he hums to me." The parents these days!  The idea of my
older relatives dong something like this with me when I was a kid is pretty unthinkable.

This nice person who sent this to me adds: "i know these chaps, and both projects are definitely led by the kids (the grownups have many musical projects themselves already, including Dead Ants Trio/ Dead Ants Rainbow which featured both of them)."

Thanks, nice person!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

ALBUM(S) DU JOUR #1: Reposts

Took time off for Thanksgiving holiday, will take more time off in Dec/Jan. So let's try to catch up with a post a day.  They said it couldn't be done!

First up, some old business: have had some requests to re-up some long-gone oldies, so here they are:

Paul Lowry: 4 songs, by avant-'tarde genius BBC engineer about whom nothing is known.  YOU NEED THIS.  If you listen to People Like Us, these might sound familiar as she's been using them in her various projects since I first posted these way back when.

Kosmic Keyboard Chants: The occult organ instrumentals of Paramahansa Yogananda's Cosmic Chants, arranged and played by a Self-Realization Fellowship monk.

CURL ACTIVATE!: doing a complete 180 from 'Cosmic Chants' comes this collection of Novelty Hip-Hop 12" Singles of the '80s.

And, apropos of nothing, let's look at this funny picture, shall we?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Behold! The Kaleidocosmicorgrig - The Strangest Instrument EVER?!

I don't usually pay $10 for obscure old records - that's like real money - but how could I resist this description from the back cover: "This is a recording of The Kaleidocosmicorgrig... it is 35' in length, 12' tall, weighs approximately 2 tons... a contrivance of pedals, keyboards, pulleys, mousetraps, electrical wires, wind machines, magnets, bellows, fishing weights, stovepipes and bicycle wheels, arranged so as to control a parlor piano, 30 tuned bottles, 13 10-foot tuba pipes, a fine bass drum, 2 tambourines, a mariachi marimba, a wooden xylophone, Swiss glockenspiel, castanets, maracas, wood block, cymbals, bonkers, zonkers, and taxihorn."

Sounds too good to be true? Many eye/ear-witnesses have testified to its one-time existence, in a Shakey's Pizza Parlor near Disneyland, California. This 1970 album, recorded live, consists largely of frantically energetic instrumentals (with a lot of Greek influences for some reason); great versions of two Latin classics, "Tico Tico" and "MalagueƱa;" a few originals; some silly lyrics (from what I could make out - the vocals are not well recorded, but it hardly matters); and a final group sing-along that does not feature the giant whatsit. The album is on red vinyl, and originally came with a strawberry-scented incense stick (did I mention this was 1970?)

Orchestrions - mechanical music orchestras - were popular a century ago, before recordings became hi-fi. I have other albums of this sort, but this beast is clearly the granddaddy of 'em all. Featured here are the old-fashioned tunes you'd expect, but also recent soundtracks hits like "Zorba The Greek" and "Never On Sunday" (see what I mean about the Greek influence?) that suggests that Nick O'Lodeon (aka Nick Cornwell) was actively programming his machine by punching new piano rolls, creating new music boxes, and building the robots necessary to play contemporary music. Unless it was all theatrics, and Nick was playing live, but I don't think so - sure, he was playing and singing some live, but the rapid-fire piano and xylophone sound like they're playing too fast for human hands.

So what's it sound like? Pretty much like what you'd think it would sound like - berserk circus music filtered thru a '70s California hippie sensibility. It's a lot of fun, upbeat, and to say the least, unique. Who knew such things existed in our universe? Far out, man!

Nick O'Lodeon Plays Actual Music On His Kaleidocosmicorgrig

Monday, November 19, 2012

Music For Saw Blades, Wood Planks, and Rolling BBs Around in a Dish

 I am woefully behind in heppin' you-all to the latest and greatest releases awaiting your cold cash. I have so many samples of new releases that I'm splitting them into the avant-classical/experimental/electronic/weird-instruments genres (today's batch) and the novelty/outsider/wacko pop/rock end of things (next post). From the sublime to the ridiculous.

Our universities are still producing music majors who move into composing, teaching, conducting, etc. and labels like Innova and Ravello are still promoting them. I have no academic music background, but this collection of the latest works from composers far beyond the classical mainstream sounds great to me. Not exactly chilled/ambient, but, as it's mostly instrumental and often atmospheric and emotional, great stuff for waking to in the morning, or for evening's contemplation with a cocktail. Tho we start off with  a bit of a bang:

1. David Kechley "Design And Construction - III. Cross Cuts": Percussion!  The aptly-named "Colliding Objects" album features not only pitched percussives, but just about anything else that can be struck with a stick.  The title track "requires marimba, cymbals, large drums, tam tam, pitched gongs, crotales, woodblocks and exotic bells." The piece featured here utilizes circular saw blades, and wooden planks cut to different lengths.

2. Andrew Violette's "Sonatas For Cello and Clarinet" is as moody as it's cover - tracks with names like "Mournful Bells" offer truth in advertising. The piece also boasts such non-standard classical music oddities as a cha-cha, but what really grabbed me was the dreamy piano that came in at 1:30 of "Grazioso leggiero." It's what I imagine Alice's trip to Wonderland must have sounded like.

3. McCormick Percussion Group "With Intensity": Awright, more percussion! The title piece of the McCormick's new album, "Concerti for Piano with Percussion Orchestra" is 15 minutes of variations on an oddly sentimental, but gorgeous melody. It's as old-fashioned as you can get for a piece for piano and nine percussionists. Part one is included here, but all three movements are, well, sublime.

4. Jeffrey Weisner's album "Neomonology" is bass-ically just upright acoustic bass. "The compositional process for Armando Bayolo’s 'Mix Tape' began with Weisner sending a mix of his favorite tunes to Bayolo, who then reworked them with pop and rock favorites of his own." I can't tell what the original sources are (maybe they were changed due to copyright issues?) but I dig this. It could have been the bass part to something out of Glass' "Einstein On the Beach."  Elsewhere on the album, Weisner delves into micro-tonal territory.

5, 7. We now move completely out of any recognizable musical traditions with two short excerpts from Ulrich Mertin & Erdem Helvacioglu's "Planet X." Were this the '70s, the concept album about the arrival of a mysterious planet of hostile aliens would have been told with corny lyrics and a histrionic singer. Fortunately, today we get pure abstract electronica, along with something called a GuitarViol.

6. The title track of Yvonne Troxler's "Brouhaha" album, features violin, cello, and ball bearings being rolled around in three glass bowls. Cool! Elsewhere, Troxler and the 11-person Glass Farm Ensemble work their strings, horns, electric guitar and, again, plenty percussion into a variety of pleasingly dissonant (possible micro-tonal) shapes, inspired by the noise of New York City, and, on another track, meteorites. The meteorite piece is a good 'un, sounding like it's performed entirely on pitched plastic cups. Lots of variety and invention - one of my fave albums of this bunch.

7. Barry Schrader's "The Barnum Museum" is, like "Planet X," an electronic concept album, and this concept is so rad that the booklet that comes with the CD is at least as interesting as the music - a phantasmagorical visit to PT Barnum's 1800s "museum," where every room in the enormous mysterious building contains another enigma, or seemingly real-life myth, from mermaids to flying carpets, to things best left unexperienced. Behold! The Chinese Kaleidoscope.

8. Harry Partch's "Bitter Music" is one of my Albums Of The Year - a 3-disk collection of the legendary gay/ homeless/ hobo/ micro-tonal musical instrument inventor/ writer/ outsider /genius (phew!) It's mostly spoken-word, but hey, it's the journals of a Depression-era hobo "riding the rails" - illegally hopping on freight trains criss-crossing the country in search of work, all the while virtually re-inventing music. Reading from his journals is KPFK radio presenter, and founder of the Micro-Fest annual music festival John Schneider, who also plays some mean guitar, custom-made to Partch's bizarre specifics. This is one of the more musical, as opposed to text-heavy tracks: Just in time for winter, it's "December, 1935 - Night. Four black walls."

M4M Sampler: From The Sublime...

I have just done your holiday shopping for you. You're welcome. Coming soon: 'M4M Sampler: ...To The Ridiculous'

Friday, November 16, 2012

Devil's Music: The Satanic Panic Paranoia of Pastor Gary Greenwald

Anyone who was around in the 1980s, esp. music fans, remembers well the 'Satanic Panic' that swept that era, at least in America (did this happen elsewhere?). Apart from ruining lives by claiming that perfectly innocent people were killing children on Satanic altars (despite that fact that not one corpse was ever found), crazy fundies also waged war against pop music, seeking hidden and not-so-hidden messages from the Evil One hisself. They analyzed lyrics and album covers, and played records backwards, claiming that 'subliminal messages' effected human behaviour.  I wish humans were that easy to manipulate.  We could put on backwards messages saying: "Don't murder. Don't wage war. Stop watching 'American Idol' and listening to crap music." And the world would be a better place.

Orange County, CA pastor Gary Greenwald got a lot of mileage out of this hysteria, selling the sermon/lecture tape presented here, as well as appearing on tv. A friend of mine back in my school days videotaped one such appearance, invited us all over to watch, and we had a regular Prince of Darkness par-teee. Oh! how we joked about it for ages.  Not only did it not scare me off pop music, I remember thinking that the clip he played from "Animals" was pretty cool. Pink Floyd sez: thanks for the free publicity, Pastor Greenwald!

You had to have a good imagination to find these allegedly hidden messages. They'd play something backwards that supposedly said "Worship Satan, kill yourself, don't vote for Reagan," but all it sounded like to me was "Wurp-nya glurp, wobwob, yob rulb." Towards the end of part 1 of the tape and the beginning of part 2 you'll hear what happens when they played some Christian records backwards!

Apart from the unexpected nostalgia blast this tape gave me, there was another eye-opening moment. I realized: hey, that's where DJ Loberdust got the sample for his classic mashup "It's Fun to Smoke Dust (Queen vs Satan)"! I maintain that it really sounds like the backwards Freddy Mercury is saying "It's HARD to smoke marijuana," not "It's fun..." But that of course, would turn it into an anti-drug song, ruining the pastor's point.

Pastor Gary Greenwald: Rock a Bye Bye Baby 1
Pastor Gary Greenwald: Rock a Bye Bye Baby 2

Part 2 gets cut off, but he's just yammering on about how eeeeevil Jim Morrison was.  Thanks again to windy - you are truly doing the lord's work.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Well, Now, Who WOULDN'T Want A Free EP Of Saw Music?

They're not just for cutting down trees, y'know. In the hands of master musicians like Kev Hopper, when bowed the humble saw can produce lovely ethereal sounds, such as those featured on his EP "Saurus." It, like most of Hopper's recorded works, is now available for free download on his site, generous chap that he is. Of the EP's 6 tracks, the first five are for musical saw. "Soulkeepers" might be my fave track, with wordless female vox joining the saw for a 'Star Trek theme' feel.

Very late '80s, a friend of mine who worked at a record store pointed to an album by a band called Stump entitled "A Fierce Pancake." "You'd probably like this," he smirked. "It's this really weird kinda Beefheart British silliness. No one here likes it. " I bought it on the spot. Great album, esp. the American version with the single 'Buffalo' added. And Kev Hopper was the band's bassist.

No Stump, sadly, but other albums available for free dl on his site include the 1990 sample-fest "Stolen Jewels," which digitally grabs everything from banjos to African vocals - the cartoonish "Punch and Judy" and "Meantime," and the sound effects-laden "Chain Smokin'" are indeed jewels. 1999's "Whispering Foils" boasts great tracks like the Steve Reich-like "Skitch Pics," and "Mr. Chuff Chuff" which sports more saw, plus marimba and Brasilian percussion. I'm not sure what to make of "The Stinking Rose," a concept album about garlic (yes, the food garlic) and apparently no-one else did, either - it never found distribution.  Still, songs like "From Herb to Eternity" and the Kate Bush-y "Sulphur Symphony" are plenty yummy. Get 'em all here:

Friday, November 09, 2012

DOWN BY LAW: NYC PunkFunk '78-'84

Let's boogie to a collection of the greatest dance "hits" of what has been called the "No Wave" era of NYC music.  Late '70s/early '80s downtown Manhattan was bursting with alt-classical composers, free jazz, New Wave, performance art and, most notoriously, noise bands. Apart from downtown, hip-hop was getting started in the South Bronx and Queens and house music was growing. All of which would coalesce into the punk-funk (aka mutant disco) of the bands presented here. Never has "dance" music been so dark, noisy, and experimental. Unlike the earlier sexy funk of James Brown et al, this stuff is uptight, tense, full of punk's nervous energy. And if the disco they were playing uptown at Studio 54 was slick and glamorous, this music was low-budget, as dirty as a SoHo street corner.

Has there ever been a more inclusive music scene? Black, white, Puerto Rican; gay & straight; male, female, and undetermined; jazz, rock, avant-garde - everyone grooving together.  All you needed was a throbbing bass line and some cowbells and congas.

Most of what I know about the earlier New York Dolls/CBGB era I got from history. But this stuff, like the Suicide song featured here, I remember. Whilst visting my family back east, my cousins would take me to clubs like Area, Danceateria and yes, CBGBs (in the days when they didn't check IDs too carefully), I bought some of these records back in the day, I'd hear 'em on the radio. Bi-coastal rivalry meant that this music wasn't as acceptably cool as the hardcore punk scene raging around me in LA (remember Fear's "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones"?  A song I loved, by the way) - but I dug it. I hadn't heard some of these songs in ages, but they hold up really well - it helps that not much music has been made like this since (no one plays percussion anymore?), so it still sounds fresh and fun.

DOWN BY LAW: NYC PunkFunk '78-'84

1. Fab Five Freddy "Down By Law"
2. Liquid Liquid "Cavern" (Perhaps the biggest "hit" song of this genre, and, yep, where Melle Mel got the music for "White Lines")
3. ESG "Moody" (oft, and I'm talking oft sampled band of three sisters/sistahs)
4. The Del-Byzanteens "My Hands Are Yellow (From The Job That I Do)" (History remembers this band for featuring future filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, but they actually were pretty cool.)
5. The Bush Tetras "You Can't Be Funky"
6. Lizzy Mercier Descloux "Wawa"
7. Dog Eat Dog "Rollover"
8. Cristina "What's A Girl To Do"
9. Kid Creole & The Coconuts "There But For The Grace of God Go I"
10. Konk "Elephant" (Speaking of Jim Jarmusch, Richard Edson from this band would act in Jarmusch's film "Stranger Than Paradise," co-starring another downtown scenester, John Lurie of jazzers The Lounge Lizards)
11. The Work "Nearly Empty"
12. Pulsallama "The Devil Lives In My Husband's Body" (This very large all-girl band featured future actress and Bongwater member Ann Magnuson)
13. Material "Square Dance" (featuring future producer-to-the-stars Bill Laswell)
14. The Dance "Do Dada"
15. James White & The Blacks "Almost Black 1" (Some of James White/Black/Chance's band quit to form Defunkt)
16. Defunkt "Blues"
17. Ike Yard "Cherish 8" 
18. 8 Eyed Spy "Motor Oil Shanty" (singer, in the loosest sense of the word, Lydia Lunch was previously in notorious noise band Teenage Jesus and The Jerks)
19. Loose Joints "Pop Your Funk"   (featuring '80s NY avant-disco mastermind Athur Russell)
20. Suicide "I Remember"

This scene is not totally forgotten - there are some good books that cover it: "The Downtown Book," "New York Noise," "No Wave", all of which make the point that music was just one element of the downtown scene - painters, photographers, filmmakers, dancers, and performance artists all got thrown into the mix.  No one seemed to do just one thing. And they also point out the scene's downfall: rising real estate prices that made Manhattan living impossible for starving artists, AIDS, and the inevitable mainstream absorption.

Oh, and the expression 'down by law' meant that you were hip, street-wise.  As Grandmaster Flash's Furious Five once rapped: "New York New York, big city of dreams/but everything in New York ain't always what it seems/you might get fooled if you come from out of town/but I'm down by law and I know my way around."

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The First Man On The Moog

"Herbert Deutsche: From Moog To Mac" is shaping up to be the reissue of the year.  It's a long-overdue career retrospective of an electronic music pioneer who was Bob Moog's right-hand man. I was happy to see that "Jazz Images, A Worksong and Blues," the first piece of music ever  recorded using a Moog Synthesizer was included in this collection. And a pretty cool piece of space jazz it is - the almost 10 minute long 1965 landmark work also includes Deutsche's piano and trumpet skillz.

Except for an '80s drum-machine pop vocal misfire, the rest of the album is solid, including tape music concrete pieces dating to the pre-Moog early '60s, right up to some lovely recent songs for piano+theremin, with stops along the way for some space-age Shakespeare, a bit of operatic vox, and more future-jazz courtesy of a sax-enhanced version of the traditional black American lament "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child".

I digitized an 7" ep of Deutsche's that I bought at a used shop ages ago that apparently was meant to accompany a book about electronic music that Deutsche wrote in the '70s. Each side is only 5-6 minutes long, but it's plenty fun.  Side a features Deutsche's narration as he demonstrates basic tape functions, then creates a nutty tape loop.  Side b features narration-free instros, including some really wacked-out tape loopiness and a wicked bit of Moog funk.

Herbert Deutsche - three tracks

1. "Jazz Images, A Worksong and Blues" from "Herbert Deutsche: From Moog To Mac"
2. Synthesis side a:  "Tape Studies 1-4"
3. Synthesis side b:  "Tape Study #6 (A Branch of My Anguish)"; "Tape Study #6 (Circe)"; "Synthesizer Studies 1-3"

Friday, November 02, 2012

Creeps And Pervs Like Pop Music, Too!

There are no doubt scads of great releases in the Free Music Archive, but with hundreds (thousands?) of album downloads on the site, there's no way I can listen to even a fraction of 'em (any recommendations?).  I did luck out and stumbled across this goodie recently:

Amil Byleckie: Amil is Personal

described thusly: "The songs are all short form pop gems inspired by adult personal ads from the Providence Phoenix. This is genuinely bizarre recording."  And that's about the size of it. Short is right: the 20 songs here fly by in just over 17 minutes, and gems they are: most of the simply-played guitar and/or keyboard + drum machine tunes are quite good and catchy. Only drawback: that trendy indie "lo-fi" sound that can be so distracting.

And the personals themselves are pretty interesting, revealing the twisted, perverted worlds that lie beneath mainstream America. Even the "Charming Beauty" who starts off sounding pretty decent and normal slowly reveals herself to be a golddigger. Tho many of these songs are funny, some of this stuff is creepy, occasionally even a bit gross, but I admire the way Byleckie can take non-musical material like newspaper ads and craft some excellent pop tunes out of them.