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Japanese noise / punk / kraut / space / future rockers Boredoms played last night at Terminal 5, and it was absolutely amazing. I wrote about their (also absolutely amazing) 77BOADRUM event in these pages this summer, but I think it's worthy to write about last night's concert because, well, every time they play is an...absolutely amazing and inspiring event.
Terminal 5 is a well-designed space, and the non-ground floors offer plenty of front-row rail access good for leaning over and catching the action below from. But the spectacle last night pushed Terminal 5's (considerable) capacity to its limits. Every floor was packed, and I stretched nudge muscles I didn't know I had trying to get a direct line of sight to see the band below.
Every Boredoms concert is an explosive exploration of ideas in
music, with lead Bore EYE literally turning everything we know about song structure inside out and puking it up in a perfectly-orchestrated space of time. The sound itself is an exercise of controlled and
beautiful explosions: at the beginning of
each performance, Eye summons some sort of powerful otherworldy being
into existence on the stage via two glowing orbs that he swings around
in the midst of ecstatic shouts and song, creating miraculously glitchy
lightning crashes. Three drummers pound away cyclic and ever-changing
rhythms that build and collapse on themselves, only to reveal more
complex rhythms that you're surprised you didn't heard before. The
centerpiece of Boredoms' round stage is a disembowelment and
re-construction of 7 purple guitars called the Sevena, built by Boredoms "sub-member" and DMBQ guy Masuko. Eye treats it as a percussion instrument, hitting it with a broomstick, using such force that it must be anchored in place by a steel crossbeam and
two assistants to make sure the fucking thing doesn't topple over in
the course of the performance. Eye makes it his business to play the
perfectly-tuned (and re-tuned, and re-tuned) strings off of the instrument, and when they finally
walked off the stage, only a few strings remained -
all but destroying the Sevena in the process. A few minutes into the set as I watched Eye spazz out across the stage, I noticed - this guy is in a motherfucking CAST. After seeing that, in a move I'll probably regret later, I took my earplugs OUT towards the end of the show to experience what was going on in a more direct manner. I didn't need my eardrums anyway.
Blanketship and Qulfus are the respective duo of Jared Blum and Dominic Cramp, and for the last few years have put out assorted releases beloved to WFMU (in fact Liz Berg hosted a live set here with Blanketship) full of quirky 60s/70s samples, tasty breaks, jazzy detours and that general kitchen sink aesthetic we have all grown to love. Motown Meltdown is the newest project, in their words:
"A few months ago we were introduce to a special collection of discs called the Motown Master Recordings Karaoke by Singing Machine. Each of these extraordinary discs contains '8 classic hits by the original artists.' Why are they extraordinary? For one, these are original Motown recordings! But it gets better.. The first 8 tracks are separated stereo channels, left and right. The left side; the instrumental, the right, isolated vocals all from the original sessions! "
So basically B & Q decided to do remixes using only these karaoke tracks, nothing outside allowed (drums, basslines etc.). The disc's liners claim Motown Meltdown is free for the taking, though I didn't see anything up as of today offering it on the Gigante website. I assume it's forthcoming, but in the meantime, here's "That Girl's Alright" (MP3) from Qulfus, and Blanketship's "Blanketown" (MP3).
Ever look suspiciously over your shoulder when you're alone in a room with your toaster oven, or your curling iron? If you were living in the 1950's, you might have. The post-war, high-technology prosperity of the space-racy 50's had many people feeling the future had sort-of already arrived. Amongst the glut of science fiction films made during the era, imagining "tomorrow" often meant imagining technology that had already infiltrated everyone's front lawns. Hence, films about machines and technology running horribly amok became adequate therapy for audiences unable to express fear of progress, which was unpatriotic. The scientists in Herbert L. Strock's Gog (1954) who create and work on amazing robotic inventions are all pipe-smoking, condescending creeps with pointy goatees, foreign accents and an open disdain for simple American etiquette. (click below to see Gog)...
For the last two years Meredith Ochs and I have hosted a daily 3-hour talk show - Freewheelin' - on Sirius Satellite Radio's Road Dog channel 147. We just returned from MATS - the Mid-America Trucking Show - in Louisville, Kentucky where anyone who's anyone in the trucking industry displays their new wares or peddles their services. Before getting the gig on Sirius I never truly considered all that trucking means to this country. I've always enjoyed truck driving songs (the more maudlin the better), I'm old enough to remember the C.B. craze and can name just about every truck driving movie ever made: but pondering the importance of the American Truck Driver in the grand scheme of things is not an activity in which I ever engaged. My eyes have been opened.
Most four-wheelers (those folks in cars) view trucks as a hindrance on the highway and stereotype truck drives as a bunch of lard-ass rednecks with little or no brains. These people speed home from a store bitching about that 18-wheeler in their way and never make the connection between the stuff in their shopping bags and the cargo in that truck. As the saying goes, "If you bought it, a truck brought it." These same myopic four-wheelers don't realize there are women truckers, gay truckers, trans-gendered truckers, African-American truckers, Latino truckers, etc., etc. Nor do they understand there are company drivers and independent owner-operators, those who are over-the-road (OTR), moving loads long distances, never knowing where they might go next - and those who run dedicated routes. On Freewheelin' we've heard from 4th and 5th generation drivers whose great-grandfathers ran mule teams and who say "Trucking's in my blood..." and we've also gotten calls from former "corporate pukes" who gave up their desk jockey jobs so they could get out on the road, see some of the country and enjoy a little freedom.
But perhaps what the average four-wheeler understands least is just how fed up most truckers are. With the price of a gallon of diesel now over $4.00 in most states, tolls and highway taxes ticking ever upwards and the price of truck insurance skyrocketing, independent owner-operators are working on razor-thin margins with many claiming they'll soon be out of business. These are small business owners, the very people our current administration claims are the "backbone" of our economy. They feel betrayed by a country to which they've sacrificed so much, including any semblance of a family life. Even company drivers for whom operating costs are not an issue feel as if they get little or no respect on the road.
Truckers see the bail-out of Bear Stearns, wonder "What about us?" and begin - once again - to talk about striking. Or shutting their trucks off for a day or taking a "vacation", since a strike would be declared illegal. Legal or not, the strike chatter has reached a fever pitch, with some drivers creating websites like truckers4change.com to carry their message and test the waters. In the last few weeks there have been stories all over the web, in print and on TV and radio, including this article by Barb Ickes in the Quad City Times as well as a report on KTKA-TV about a strike set for April 1 (or perhaps it's April 3 or some other day in the next month or two). Two recent documentaries - Alligator on the Zipper and Big Rig - also shine a light on how hard it is to be a trucker these days.
Will a strike actually happen? And - if it does - will anyone notice or care? There was a trucker strike in Italy recently and it did bring similar issues to light and force the government to take those issues seriously. Can it work here? Only if the independent owner-operators who take part are joined in significant numbers by their company driver brethren. Otherwise, the numbers would be too small to make an impact. The trade organization OOIDA (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association) has taken the position that a strike would be at best unwise, at worst criminal. The Teamsters haven't released any statements about a possible strike. And no one has mentioned - as far as I can tell - that a strike was attempted about four months back, to no avail. But tomorrow is April 1st and if there is a nationwide trucker strike (shutdown, stoppage, vacation, etc.) it will not be a joke. This country will come to a standstill.
Trent posted the mp3s from the Carla Bozulich's Evangelista set at the WFMU SXSW showcase (link). The two video clips contain most of the second half of the set. Thanks again Austin volunteer Christine Campbell for shooting this.
This is a great German TV special from 1971, featuring Krautrock legends Can doing some avant-gardish things, playing foosball (better known under the name "table football" in Europe), jamming around, and talking about socialism and music. The clip is taken from a 1999 Can documentary (which you can order with some other goodies on DVD at Spoon Records). I don't know whether the introduction is from the same program, but it was just too good to leave out.
For slightly better quality, you can download the video (32 meg MPEG-4).
Two videos I just saw this week and couldn't help but share.
The McCain Girls (via New York Mag)
It's painful, but hold out for the scene where it actually does start raining McCain's and you'll lose your shit.
UPDATE: Tis a damn fine comedy hoax.
Bathing with Bierko: John Malkovich
The fact that John Malkovich is willing to get in the tub with Craig Bierko and have his ears lovingly scrubbed as he repeats "Portugal" and "flamingo" over and over makes me love Malkovich even more than I already did.
Last week I mentioned Laff Records (Look forward to some raunchy gems in the next few weeks from LaWanda Page, Skillet and Leroy, Reynaldo Rey, Howard Thomashefsky and others). Laff joined a handful of other prolific labels that specialized in "Adults Only" comedy. Other labels that dealt with the genre were Dooto, Kent, After Hour Records, Surprise, StereOddities, Jubilee and Fax. Fax Records mostly pressed suggestive comedy LPs by a scrawny nerd named Bert Henry. Henry's suggestive LPs were in direct contrast to his day job working in the chorus of The Golden Horseshoe Revue in Disneyland. Several of the Fax LPs were "Stag Party" albums with a naked woman on the cover. Today we listen to one of Fax's more obscure (and less dirty) offerings by a stand-up comedian named Stu Gilliam. Gilliam was very busy in nineteen seventies television and film and one of only two actors to work constantly in both Hanna-Barbera cartoons and Blaxploitation movies (Scatman Crothers was the other thespian to partake in this unlikely combo). Listen to this lo-fi and surprisingly normal comedy LP from Fax - Stu Gilliam at the Basin Street West here.
Music videos within music videos--a stylistic device upon which you'd have thought early- to mid- 80's video directors would have pounced on an epidemic scale. Not by a long shot. Here was a chance for the cream of New Wave and power pop to gratuitously plug another favorite singer's or band's videos and, in essence, invent music vid product placement. An idea that would surely have been tossed out right off the bat by innocent, vulnerable and completely unimpressionable eleven year-olds, right? Obviously, it wasn't the winning formula...except for one band. One musical entity would ever concoct it, use it and pioneer it: Dire Straits.
About two minutes into "Money for Nothing" another video suddenly appears. Some pretty boy wearing a badass red muscle shirt and hair vaguely reminiscent of Magne Furuholmen/Bono circa "11 O'Clock Tick Tock"/Brenda Fricker whirls around to face the camera in a great stop motion effect that makes him seem bionic. Another minute thirteen seconds later there's a black and white video of a woman in her late twenties, early thirties in alluring black lace stockings and white panties (that more or less double as toilet paper) glaring seductively and taking her frustration out on a kiosk. This band, its song and accompanying clip--The Ian Pearson Band's "Sally"--are completely fake. Ian Pearson isn't even a musician; he's the animator of "Money for Nothing" and close friend of the Knopflers.
The other, however, is totally real, and this is where it gets kinda scary. The first video is from a band called First Floor--the real English translation of their real Hungarian moniker, Elso Emelet. The English song title is "Baby, Baby", although I'd bank on the literal Hungarian title being somewhat more nuanced (Anyone happen to know to what "Allj vagy lovok" translates in English?).
Anyhow, through intense YouTube snooping I've discovered something extraordinary: these Eastern European pop studs are actually incorrect gangsta ballbusters. Absolute white outsider bou-ghetto instigators.
Think Oingo Boingo when they were still the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo and Bill Nelson collaborating on an album and singing all the lyrics in Hungarian. Word of caution: Their videos are as tedious as watching seaweed float. But, oh, to the glorious heavens above (baby, baby), the music is breathtaking.
Here is some video from WFMU's outdoor stage at SXSW. Half Japanese put on an amazing set - one of the highlights of the evening. The 20 minute clip contains 9 tracks.
Thanks to Austin volunteer Christine Campbell for shooting this. And check out the MP3s of the set Brian posted last week (link)
The band Wire have been covered by everyone from fIREHOSE to Fischerspooner, but here's an unusual take on Pink Flag's "Lowdown" from a 1979 live recording by the Czech band Extempore. Actually, the full name seems to be the New Rock and Jokes Band Extempore. The band drew somewhat on Western European art-prog (heavy on the sax), and the album Zabíjacka (translated: "pig slaughtering") this cover was taken from was a sort of rock-opus dealing with a group of pig-faced humans dining on the corpse of a cook who accidentally kills himself preparing an actual pig. Whoa. Not sure how that leads into a Wire cover (it actually seems to be after the main part of the live set) but sources claim they also covered Generation X and Dr. Feelgood too. "Lava a St'ava" (MP3). Much Eastern-European mailorder music greateness can be found, by the way, via Tamizdat.
Oh, we missed the anniversary of Betty Hutton's death earlier in the month (March 11). To add to Irwin's list of Betty Hutton videos from last year, here's one of Betty's greatest musical triumphs: "Old Man Mose". See Betty smack herself in the face, threaten the orchestra, and get pushed to the floor several times. In 1939 this was good clean family entertainment!
After a short marathon-induced break, we're back with more randomly selected morning maniac music, courtesy of WFMU's lengthy myspace friends list! Here's the deal, in case you've missed earlier installments: listen to the song, check the profile if you want, and then vote!
The band or bands who get the most "Pump it" votes each week will be forever exalted in the form of my FIRST EVER MARATHON PREMIUM called "In MySpace, No One Can Hear You Scream", offered for pledges of $75 or more to WFMU's 50th Anniversary Fundraising Marathon (you can still pledge here!) . With the artists' gracious permission, the winning tracks from the 1st portion of this year will be compiled onto one CD, packaged lovingly, and mailed to your home in exchange for some dosh for the station's perilously emaciated coffers. Last episode's favorites include So Cow, Copydex, Holmes, The Soap, Irmãos Panarotto, and Magic Carpathians. Congratulations, band buddies!
Who will be next? It's up to you!!
The hurdy gurdy is some thousand years old, a sort of imploded and rosined-up bicycle that was used to make a single note last way long in the days before electricity. Its design, a wheel that turns against depressed strings housed inside a wooden box, is far more economical than its predecessor - an early viol de gamba with a bow of several furlongs in length that required several grown men or a team of oxen to play. By the Donovanian Era, however, it had been contained in a small crank case and employed a second bridge, called a "dog" but crafted from raccoon bones, that lifted against the spinning wheel to create a buzzing sound thought to be pleasant.
As musical instruments got better with time, the hurdy gurdy came to be seen as an instrument for poor people, and was called the "Bettlerleier," or "beggar's lyre" in 17th Century Germany. This was long before the European Union, however, and other countries were free to like it. The French decided there was something fancy about it, and Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi went so far as to compose for it.
In later years, the barrel organ, popularly played by street vendors with monkeys, came to be called by the same name, and, unrelatedly, popular singer Sting appeared on the 2004 Grammy telecast holding one, setting off a short-lived air-hurdy-gurdy craze.
Popular musicians other than Sting and Vivaldi have also worked with the hurdy gurdy, and TFGTSI is pleased to present an A-Z digest of some of the more notable vielists of the hurdy gurdy.
Arnold Dreyblatt is a modern seer of the 'gurd. His 1981 piece Nodal Excitation (first issued on India Navigation and rereleased in 1998 on Dexter's Cigar, a reissue label run by Jim O'Rourke and David Grubbs) was scored for two bass viols, midget upright pianoforte and portable pipe organ, and featured Greg Lewis on hurdy gurdy. Here's the last of the eight sections of the piece.
(Image: Georges de la Tour The Hurdy-Gurdy Player, 1631-1636)
WFMU is pleased to offer up our beautiful, limited-edition 2008 SXSW poster.
Designed and screen-printed by Aesthetic Apparatus, the poster features a scary monkey, multi-directional "action arrows," and the list of bands that performed at our SXSW showcase on 3/14/08: Half Japanese, Hank IV, Evangelista, Paul Metzger, Gary Higgins, Harvey Milk, Lexie Mountain Boys, Psychedelic Horseshit, Kelley Stoltz, The Bad Trips, Citay, Cheveu, The Homosexuals, and Los Llamarada.
The poster is on fancy, thick paper stock and measures 18" x 24". Each poster is individually numbered (limited edition of 200). Click here to buy one!
...or BAP!! and H.E.D. as they are more commonly known. Two hardcore bands from the mid 80s whose music videos blew my mind this week. On the left is BAP!!, hailing from the Basque country. From the first watch, I wasn't sure if the Minor Threat informed high octane hardcore meshed too well with the Christian imagery of the video, but that's exactly what got me to begin to appreciate the band's art-punk undercurrents. OOOHHH I just love cuspy, transitional periods in music!
The H.E.D. vid grabs me for a slightly different reason: it's a pretty early case of another one of Minor Threat's descendants, hard line straight edge. And although it doesn't predate Bad Brain's Right Brigade (first mosh part ever, if you don't count Helter Skelter - listen to it again, it's a total mosh anthem, trust me), it's still waaayy moshy for 1985...were kids floorpunching at this point or did that come later? p.s. this vid comes from Back Porch video, an old public access show whose history, now available on youtube, is worth digging through.