Tuesday, May 31, 2005
  ce n'est pas un gilet

Can - I Want More

Maybe it's best to start a little slow. I'm nervous, a little bit like when I had my first turn at the record store way back in the 1990s. I think I played something off of the Tortoise Remixes album. My friend Karen suggested I play Can because all record store clerks like Can. It turned out she was mostly right, at least in my neck of the woods (Chicago). I suggested this track "I Want More" to the Darkness (I call him by his given name mostly but I'll bow to convention) when I was at WZBC a week or two ago. Their vinyl stacks are surprisingly solid considering the stories I've heard of student djs skimming all the good stuff out of LP libraries across the country. I don't have a copy of Can's Flow Motion nor can I say that I have I listened to it all the way through, ever, but I like this song a lot. I only discovered it while watching the Can DVD set that came out a year or two back. At the time I didn't care too much for the live footage/documentary film thing at the beginning but the other live performances knocked me out. Towards the end (of the DVD & their career as a band) there's footage of the band playing on the Old Grey Whistle Stop (or something) circa 1972. "I Want More" has charted in England, their first "hit". It's vaguely disco, deceptively simple in the way some of the best Can often is. I can't explain its appeal to me. When I hear it, all I can picture is Irmin Schmidt in what looks like a vest made of pull-tabs, bobbing his head, raising his left hand to the crowd in between keyboard stabs. Amazing.

(And please don't make me for a pretentious Francophone. I used the interdarpawebnet to translate that phrase above. Hooray 21st Century!)
  a new guy

Hey. I've been monstrously slack with posting the last couple of months. To help make up for that, we've added a new guy to help out a bit. Rob, aka the fieldrecordist, might be throwing some stuff up on here occasionally. I think he has something coming later today, or tomorrow, or sometime soon. But he's one of the good ones, and we should all treat him with kindness and respect.
Friday, May 27, 2005
  re: In Praise of the Ornately Sissified

Belle and Sebastian : "You Made Me Forget My Dreams" (live in Utrecht 03/31/2004)

Belle and Sebastian : "Slow Graffiti" (live in Utrecht 03/31/2004)

As a sidebar to this post from the home base, here are live versions of a couple of songs from Belle & Sebastian's Push Barman to Open Old Wounds. The quality on this is almost flawless. I grabbed these from You Ain't No Picasso.
  you have some eyes on you

Bullette: "Your Eyes Have It"
Bullette: "I Can't Tell You Why I'm Smiling"
Bullette: "Night Starts Over"

I got an email the other day, sent to my semi-pro “rock-crit” address, from Monika Bullette. I get stuff like this all the time, and rarely ever follow up on them. That would have been the case here if Mystical Beast hadn’t done a post about Bullette. That got me intrigued, and so I voyaged to Bullette’s site to listen to her album, Secrets. And yes, it is great, some very charming indie singer-songwriter type stuff, sort of in the vein of Daniel Johnston, but more collected. Here are a couple songs, and I strongly recommend hitting her site for the rest of the album. Also read what Dana at the Beast has to say about it; I’m far too busy/lazy to write up something on my own right now, unfortunately.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
  He says "yes", I says "no", he says "yes", I says "no", he says "it's the truth"

Hillary's done come through with Part 3. It's kind of a let-down, actually.
Friday, May 20, 2005
  sorry about Collective Soul, America

Deer Hunter: "Tech School"

Atlanta’s got a bad rep, rock-wise, and it might be completely deserved. Over the years its had a few good bands, but for the most part Atlanta’s rock lineage is populated with acts of unspeakable horror. Its rap is world-class, of course, but in every other way Atlanta’s been shown-up, musically, by such smaller towns as Macon, Athens, and even Augusta (hell, one man alone makes Augusta’s musical mark indelible, and superior to Atlanta's). Seriously, it’s one damn sad joke.

A week or so ago, I found a few mp3’s on-line by Deer Hunter, a contemporary rock band from that fair city of my birth. I wasn’t expecting much. What I heard was pretty good, though, and the more I listened the more I liked it. Apparently they’re connected in some way to the Black Lips, the last ATL rock band that didn’t let me down. Whereas the Lips are more straight-up garage punk idiocy, Deer Hunter seems to have a more vested interest in making unusual and potentially alienating sounds. They play at the dance-punk thing a bit, but they bury it under enough layers of grime, hiss, and random formless noise to avoid that fad’s more dogmatic precepts. It becomes undeniable that the band’s working with the right ideas when the song briefly turns into a crazed blur at the 1:54 mark. Deer Hunter puts up a fine Fall / early Pavement approximation, something every city could use, and hopefully next time I return home I can catch a show somewhere.

Oh yeah, the band informed me that this particular mp3, procured from their label’s website, was ripped from a vinyl copy of their album, and using a shitty turntable. I think it sounds pretty awesome as is, and hopefully the original isn’t missing too much of this file’s righteous mire.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
  everything I've written about Bloc Party applies equally to Cowboy Troy

Bloc Party: "So Here We Are"
Bloc Party: "Blue Light"
Bloc Party: "This Modern Love"

Okay, so yes, they’ve been absolutely hyped to death, especially by the music-blogs. That should make all of us with good sense leery. And we don’t like crowding other folks’ bandwagons around here, but sometimes, as with the Futureheads, it becomes unavoidable. This is one of those situations. Bloc Party was omnipresent for a few weeks last winter, so I’m sure all of you have heard something by them. Knowing the way our three readers think, I imagine you all pretty much disliked them for various reasons. And that’s okay, I completely understand that. I wanted to hate the hell out of them, myself, and the first few songs I heard did nothing to change my mind. But now I am ready to defend them. Now I openly declare myself a Bloc Party fan. I’ve downloaded over half the record through various sites, and although a couple songs do nothing for me, at least five of them are, at the minimum, really great. A couple might be the best non-Clarkson songs I’ve heard this year. There are still five songs I haven’t heard off the album yet, but if they are anywhere near as good as “Blue Light”, or “This Modern Love”, or “So Here We Are”, then I could see Silent Alarm easily being one of my two or three favorite albums of the year. In a more perfect country these three songs would be required listening for every artsy, sensitive teenager today, a modern-day complement to the steady diet of Ian Curtis, Morrissey, and Robert Smith that eternally populates the playlists of teenaged punk romantics. More than anybody else in recent memory Bloc Party nails that sense of hopeful yearning felt by alienated but not angry suburban teens, and all those who believe they could be doing much more and much better than they currently are. That essence is best captured in “So Here We Are”, and the almost unnaturally beautiful wordless vocals that appear two and a half minutes in. Bloc Party could very well be the new U2, and despite my initial resistance I’ve been completely suckered in.
Monday, May 16, 2005
  I'm-a shoot you both if you don't say what's on your mind

Oneida: "The Eiger"
Oneida: "High Life"
R. Kelly: "Trapped in the Closet (2 of 5)"

UPDATE: Okay, no Go-Betweens today. I left the damn disc at home. We might postpone the whole thing for another week or two. We'll keep you posted.

Later today we start our Go-Betweens week. Before we get into that, though, I’d like to make up for last week’s lack of posts by offering up this quick update. I'm sure both of you are pissed at our profligacy.

Oneida’s new album The Wedding came out a couple of weeks ago, and it might be their most consistently excellent piece of work. The big news is the frequent usage of a string section, but instead of getting all vainglorious in a foolhardy pursuit of musical growth, the band continues to refine and explore the two or three things they do well. The orchestration on here sounds like Oneida playing different instruments, and not at all reminiscent of your typical unnecessary schmaltzification process. These aren’t Spector’s strings on “Let It Be”, or that weepy, overly earnest horseshit heard on later Sebadoh records. This is the same Oneida, with a slightly new palette.

And secondly, via Hillary, once again, comes the second installment of R. Kelly’s epic song-cycle “Trapped In the Closet”. If you missed part one, here it is. This one’s ending is pretty predictable, but even though it’s not nearly as effective of a cliffhanger as the first part’s conclusion, I remain desperately anxious to hear the next part.
Friday, May 13, 2005


I might have time for a true update later this afternoon. For now, though, you can tide yourselves over by visiting Nokahoma Records' brand new mp3 directory. Right now there are eight files up, and hopefully by the end of day Monday there'll be a track or two from every Nokahoma release.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
  I'm pretty sure no American male between the ages of 14 and 21 would ever listen to this shit.

Akon: "Don't Let Up"

Here’s another submission from Hillary, this time Akon’s "Don’t Let Up". So is this guy the Des’Ree of rap, or something? From the two songs I’ve heard, he’s definitely parent-friendly and age-appropriate for eleven-year-olds, which are not at all bad things. I’ve always been pretty down on rap, largely because it’s so unrelentingly disgusting most of the time. On these two songs, at least, Akon eschews the rough-neck idiocy of most popular rap, so good for him. And even though he’s probably just this decade’s Skee-Lo, Akon’s done a good job with this and "Mr. Lonely". I’m sure he’s too unbearably cute for most true rap fans, or even for most people who aren’t either in middle school or the parent of somebody who is, but, being the massive puss that I am, I’m pleased by both of the Akon songs I’ve heard, and would be interested in hearing some more.
Friday, May 06, 2005
  From a Voice Plantation #2

Arcesia: "Desiree"
Arcesia: "White Panther"
Arcesia: "Leaf"

Johnny Arcessi was a minor league big-band crooner who left Providence for California in the late ‘60’s. Instead of some flashy car or comely dame, the fruits of his mid-life crisis were drugs and rock’n’roll, false promises of reclaimed youth, all. He hooked up with some rocker types some three decades his junior, called the band Arcesia, and made one utterly fantastic, almost legendary album, Reachin’. Old Johnny, you see, didn’t really have much talent, in the traditional sense. What he did have is an absolutely unforgettable voice, a quavering, tuneless croon that slightly resembles Gary Puckett after some severe frontal lobe damage. Throw in some of the most amazingly convoluted and torturous hippie lyrics imaginable and you’ve got yourself an undeniable classic of almost incomprehensible proportions. The band’s mellow psych-rock is mostly competent, and at times quite nice; what makes this record the milestone that it is, though, is Arcessi’s incomparable voice and words.

Irwin Chusid mentions Arcesia in his Songs in the Key of Z, writing a small paragraph or two instead of the full entry that this amazing album deserves. Unlike much of the music discussed in that book, Arcesia isn’t simply bad, or awkward; this sound is utterly unique, and operates on a multitude of levels. Yes, it’s conventionally “bad”, but the same can be said of many notable singers who aren’t saddled with the outsider tag. In Arcessi’s voice you can hear a man who’s utterly confused, who has lost all connection to the reality that surrounded him, and who has found himself in a bewildering environment that he could never possibly truly inhabit. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a musical outsider, but he was certainly an outsider of the scene he was trying to crack. In his voice you can hear desperation, sadness, confusion, and maybe a bit of hope, and underneath it all the unwelcome realization that he is a man thoroughly out of place, and at least temporarily out of his normal mind. If David Brent were a mid-20th-century American, he would have made Reachin’.
  Lord of the Final Leopard

Caribou - "Yeti"

Caribou - "A Final Warning"

Caribou - "Lord Leopard"

In my eyes Caribou (formely Manitoba) is a perfect mix of the Olivia Tremor Control and Hood. Thats about all I want to describe them as and see if you all agree. I saw them as Manitoba open for someone (shit, Hood maybe) and the three members could achieve a sound that a 10 person band couldnt, and two of these guys were playing drums! Dan Snaith is the head guy and pretty much runs the show and does all the writing, which baffels me due to the complexity of the songs.

These three songs are pretty indicitive of the album. The drum fill when the drums finally come in during "YETI" blow my mind every time and could vie for the best drum fill ever! Somehow these guys have captured the sound of the Beatles early drums, really tight sounding - wet warm and huge at the same time. OTC could do that too. The second song could fit on a NEU! outtake record. The third sounds like something Fairmount Fair would write. So go figure. These guys are fucking great and their album is worth buying without a doubt.

You can purchase their album through Leaf Records - here.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
  Rabid Foxes vs. Hawks

Howling Hex - "Now, We're Gonna Sing"
Howling Hex - "Activity Risks"

Now this is a good definition of jamming.
Ok I really dont know how many folks will like this, but I think its pretty much genius. Neil Michael Hagerty has proven himself oodles of times before, now it just seems like he is rewarding those who are interested enough to still be around. I love artists who give the real fans of their music reason to keep loving him. NMH released 3 12"s through Drag City's webpage recently that all sold out within a week of their release. Obviously his fans are still around and he is still rocking our asses. With this record I think NMH is trying to focus on the basis of jamming. How do jam? How do you continue jamming? Do you jam on? Yes to all of these.

If you dont like it, I want to hear why. If you do, that is fucking awesome.

You can buy the Howling Hex cd at Drag City.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
  I lost my mind at the Hawkwind show

Monoshock: "Striking a Match in the Year 4007"

Monoshock: "Hawkwind Show"

Monoshock: "Mexican Dentistry"

Monoshock could’ve benefited from some good, old-fashioned temporal displacement. If they were blasting out this crud today they could very easily be getting some of the underground attention that’s been bestowed upon Comets on Fire and other, more outright noise bands. Had they come about ten years earlier they could have saddled up alongside folks like Chrome, Crime, and Swell Maps, and left a nice little footnote for those who dig intelligent space-raunch and cosmic punk jams. And if the sixties were their day, they’d be up there with the Godz and White Light / White Heat as prime foundational elements. But that fourth dimension is also a fuckin’ river, and part of our plight is to make do with where we’re plopped. ’89 to ’95 wasn’t the best time for this stuff, as bad “alternative” and occasionally good, but generally pansified and/or eggheaded, indie-rock were sucking up all the CMJ positions and Cute Band Alerts. Why would Album 88 touch this shit when they could just spin Velocity Girl’s latest another couple dozen times, instead?

I doubt Monoshock holds any grudges, though. Dudes who’d make music like this probably aren’t the sort of people who care about any of that stuff. From Oakland by way of Santa Cruz, Monoshock delved deep into the sort of heavy psychedelic noise rock that would later be touched on by folks like Comets, Acid Mothers Temple, and Subarachnoid Space. Their one album, 1995’s two-lp Walk to the Fire, is apparently some sort of lost modern classic, but I have yet to hear any of it. I did pick up a copy of the compilation Runnin’ Apelike from the Backwards Superman: 1989-1995 in San Francisco last week, and I will thoroughly vouch for its sporadic excellence. Comprised of three singles, two compilation tracks, a couple songs from their 1989 demo tape, and five previously unreleased tunes, Runnin’ Apelike is a solid entrant into the mind-zap canon, and here are a few songs for your edification. “Striking a Match in the Year 4007” is a warped vortex of idiotic rock squall, operating on about seven quarters of an ass and who knows how many disparate chemicals. The relatively straight-forward “Hawkwind Show” proves that the band could write a pretty good pop song if they wanted to, while also paying tribute to an obvious inspiration. Finally, the instrumental “Mexican Dentistry” is a whole bunch of random shit splattering all over the place, and barely held together by the gravity of one simple dumbass riff. Goodness!
Monday, May 02, 2005
  From a Voice Plantation #1

Over the last few decades a number of music writers and researchers have excavated the life and times of Emmett Miller, a long-forgotten blackface singer from Macon, Georgia. Wizened old rock critic Nick Tosches is chief among them. His 2001 book, Where Dead Voices Gather, utilizes his quest for Miller’s biographical data as the framework for an examination of minstrelsy and how thoroughly it permeated and influenced popular culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Tosches takes many tangents, as is usual for him, but never fails to return to Miller and his trick voice every so often, effectively asserting that Miller was both a product of his culture and yet an unusually unique performer.

The late twenties were the end-times for blackface minstrelsy, and Miller consummately embodied this dying and disreputable tradition. At the same time, though, he transcended it with his desperate, disarming yelp of a voice. “Anytime”, his signature song, begins with that crazed yodel that left such an indelible impression upon Tosches. The subsequent fake Negro patter and bad Amos and Andy routine are typical blackface hallmarks, their ridiculous racial notions more baffling than offensive. But when Miller begins singing again, and his voice hits those unexpected high notes that often spiral into a yodel, he sticks out from other recorded blackface singers, both his contemporaries and predecessors.

Tosches points to Miller as a perfect example of the cross-pollination between country, blues, and jazz in their early recorded stages. Miller, a real Southerner, sang, as a fake Negro, tunes written by New York songwriters, and played by a backing band that featured not-yet-legendary jazzmen like Gene Krupa and the Dorsey Brothers. Minstrel lyrics were often lifted from folk-blues songs, which, in turn, often appropriated words written by professional Tin Pan Alley songwriters. Tosches likens these relationships to the ourobouros (an allusion that I believe is used at least once in every Tosches book I’ve read), the snake eating its own tail. As he puts forth in his earlier work Country, our musical history consists primarily of words and music of unknowable origin passing from memory to folk tradition, then on to blues, country, and jazz, and then back again. When recording was new, before culture became national and streamlined, genres were indistinct and permeable, and would be combined, often unwittingly, in fashions far more seamless than anything Cowboy Troy could ever hope to manage. The boundaries between blues and country, jazz and folk had not yet firmed, and thus a singer like Emmett Miller could straddle and influence a multitude of styles.

Miller’s most obvious influence was upon country music. Yodeling was a part of country almost from when that term started to be used. Jimmie Rodgers became the first country superstar based on his amazing “Blue Yodel”, which shares some lyrics with southern blues songs encountered by folklorists. Tosches determines that it’s impossible to tell whether Miller influenced Rodgers, but Miller was yodeling before Rodgers put anything on tape. Subsequent country yodeler Bob Wills acknowledged Miller’s influence, and Hank Williams’ hit recording of “Lovesick Blues” owes much to Miller’s version from the twenties, in both arrangement and vocal performance. Many years later, Merle Haggard did a whole album of Miller songs. In influencing Williams, probably the most important and influential country singer, Miller played a notable role in the development of country music.

But the primary point of interest with Emmett Miller, the reason his memory has been rescued from oblivion, is that startling and amazing voice. Miller sounds quite sincerely insane much of the time, and almost inhuman elsewhere. His voice was an incredible instrument for bizarre and unsettling noise, and one of the most distinctive sounds I’ve ever encountered.

Emmett Miller: "Anytime"
Emmett Miller: "Lovesick Blues"

Jimmie Rodgers: "Blue Yodel"
  From a Voice Plantation

I'm no stickler for vocals. Or lyrics, even. I think anybody who grew up listening to early '90's indie-rock would probably have to agree on both points. Vocal performances and lyrical deftness really aren't central to enjoying, say, Archers of Loaf. For every Merritt or Malkmus there are/were a dozen MacCaughans and Mascises, whining about girls and jobs in tones not even remotely dulcet, and only occasionally turning memorable phrases or evoking vibrant, palpable scenes. This is no slight, nor an any way a drawback, but merely an immutable truth.

Obviously this is also not to say that I never take vocals into consideration. An excellent voice, or impressive lyrics, can salvage the musically lifeless and/or uninspiring. Sometimes, the vocals are the point in and of themselves, superseding both the words and the notes. That too rare moment when the three align into perfect unison, however, forging an immaculately realized pop song, with uniformly excellent lyrics, vocals, and instrumentation, is probably the pinnacle of popular culture, and greater than any film, book, or television show. Such songs appear infrequently, and have absolutely nothing to do with I'm writing about here.

No, at this juncture I am solely concerned with the voice, its inexplicable majesty, and how it leers haughtily down upon all other strands of noise-making like some unknowable, unconquerable, primordial god from beyond the futile reaches of man's incognizant imaginings. And also how it can sound kinda cool, sometimes. Periodically I'll post an mp3 and put up some nonsense about some singer person I am particularly fond of, and place it under this heading, which will most likely be followed by a pound-sign and an Arabic digit that corresponds to its sequential location within the series of Voice Plantation posts. Hopefully it'll be awesome, but I think we've both learned enough to know better.
Mesmerization Eclipse Extension: The MP3 Adjunct to Mesmerization Eclipse

All MP3s are posted for evaluation purposes only, and are removed after three days.

Logo by Dehumidifier

December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / August 2008 /



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