This past Monday I took part in a panel discussion as part of WFMU's series of Radio Free Culture broadcasts. Titled The Rise and Fall of MP3 Blogs, the confab posed the following question: "Has the music blogosphere's golden age already passed us by?"
My fellow panelists seemed for the most part ready to embrace the notion that our best days of free and unfettered music sharing are behind us. But from my perspective, there's just no time to mourn the loss of excellent blogs when there are so many more passionate and creative music obsessives clamoring online to share their record collections!
And while there is plenty to lament about the state of the blogging landscape, as long as great records keep getting posted, I'll keep bathing them in the warm glow of my miner's helmet.
The Chosen Drum "Using her fingertips, open palms, elbows and clenched fists, Ruth creates a whole new world of music from a primitive drum whose sound is powerful yet delicate, caressing and wild, capable of imitating human speech when in the hands of a master player." (From the liner notes)
[Some may find it noteworthy that Spike Lee's father, Bill, plays bass on this record.]
Issued in 1955 on the Columbia label, Reflections Of An Indian Boy is an homage to composer Carl Fischer's ethnicity, which, when spun, comes to life as an intriguing entry in the catalog of '50s popular music.
First off, I want to say a few words about Paul Weston. A well-known conductor, Weston was probably one of the most prolific names in Light Music from the '40s and '50s. During the last few years of the 1950s and into the '60s, he also contributed some very unique albums to the "Exotica" repertory. In the early days of his career, Paul Weston was associated, to an extent, with Johnny Mercer (the man behind Capitol Records), and Jo Stafford (a '40s and '50s vocalist). As turns out, Weston was the Musical Director and Repertoire consultant for Capitol during its earliest years, as well as a recording artist for the label. In 1950, both Weston and Stafford switched over to Columbia Records and both continued to release album after album throughout the decade. Then, in the late '50s and early '60s, Weston's albums began to feature more provocative cover art and weirder arrangement/recording styles. It's my impression that he was actually the creator of the mood music style, the likes of which dominated popular music produced during the '50s and gradually evolved into the much more sensational sounds we know of as Exotica, Space Age Pop, and most Incredibly Strange Music.
Sunday was National Dog Day, which apparently is celebrated on August 26 each year by anyone who happens to know about it. Even though most people do not know about National Dog Day, everyone knows that dogs are awesome, especially Boston Terriers, which are the best dog ever for all sorts of reasons, the main one being that purebred dog people are always going on and on about how their dogs are still suitable for the task for which they were bred, e.g., they do not actually take their Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever down to the pond to lure ducks with his attractive white markings, but they could if they wanted to. The Boston Terrier, however, was originally bred to be a little super-deformo pit bull fighting dog, yet there never was a BT in the world who would fight, they just want to play and be happy and lick your hand and eat delicious treats. In other words, the breed was always a total failure at the task for which it was bred, and that is why it is still awesome even today.
The Dead C's 1992 masterwork Harsh 70s Reality was finally re-released on vinyl a few weeks ago in its full, intended form (two songs, "Shark" and "T. Is Never Over I & II" were removed when the double LP was released on CD due to space limitations), and upon revisiting the album, which has been beautifully remastered, I'm confident in proclaiming that this is probably very well my favorite album of the 90's. The only possible album I could see trumping it would be the C's own 1997 sleeper hit Tusk, but I must say that the trio approached the concept of a double LP with great foresight and a mastery of their varied approaches to their no-fi avant-rock dirges. We get the "pop" songs ("Sky"), the morose pseudo-ballads (a powerful, sludgy take on previous single "Hell Is Now Love" simply entitled "Love"), the building bludgeon of some live burners ("Constellation"), and of course, the unreal drone collage epic of album opener "Driver U.F.O." Everything The Dead C have done is worth owning/exploring, but this is an early pinnacle; the plans were set in motion, and they ran with this creative energy to consistently compelling ends.
With that in mind, here's some superb visual ephemera from the New Zealand lads. Starting with a hypnotically low-budget VHS rip of a "Helen Said This" music video (or is it a liver performance? Hard to tell, but that's part of the magic), a live interview and studio performance for Seattle-based web series Live Eye TV, a live performance in London from their appearance at ATP in 2010 I believe, and finally, because it bears posting again, the band's surreal, blistering, violent performance on New Zealand pop music television show Ground Zero. Enjoy!
Igloolik, way up in the Canadian arctic some 1,800 miles north of Ottawa, seems to be an unlikely place for a heavy rock band to flourish, but Northern Haze have played a proud, uncompromised Sabbath-tinged catalogue of songs since 1978. In their native Inuit tongue. As the story goes, the four friends took up instruments provided by a local community center, most songs written by singer/guitarist Kolitalik Inukshuk. With cofounder Naisana Qamaniq they started up weekends gigs channeling faves like Pink Floyd, Hendrix, and Zep, but a clear vision started to develop quickly and the CBC took notice and ushered them into studios for demos and recording. Travel grants and growing notoriety allowed the band (at first called Northern Lights) to travel around Canada, and throughout they remained true to their wish to deliver their music to Northern communities with occasional festival shows in larger cities. CBC serviced limited edition LPs to stations and libraries and broadcast their music nationwide. Their activity slowed down in 1987 with a restart in 1999, then Elijah passed away from cancer in 2007, and Kolitalik was murdered only days later. The group revamped with a few new members, and in 2009 Jason Flower of Supreme Echo Records discovered their music while researching Canadian Inuit recordings. Flower trekked out to the Arctic with a documentary filmmaker in tow, three weeks of rekindled rock, nature treks and raw meat consumption ensued and now an amazing LP Sinnaktuq comprised of 1985-2010 recordings is out. Thanks to Jason for letting us share an MP3: "Qaina". Killer! Copies are fleeting, but we're told Numero and Fusetron have some.
If you enjoy the survey of sounds covered in these weekly Motherlodes, you should check out Give the Drummer Radio, a 24-hour webstream I created for WFMU in the summer of 2010. Initially, the stream was intended as a platform for continuing to broadcast my radio show after a move to Pittsburgh mandated that it come off WFMU's main broadcast schedule. After establishing my show on the stream, it occurred to me that I could use the stream as a means for presenting other great radio shows as well, and now the thing serves up a half dozen additional genius music obsessives on a weekly basis.
In its default mode—listen anytime here or via mobile device (info here)—Give the Drummer Radio plays a continuous flow of adventurous, unusual and lovely sounds such as you find here in Mining the Audio Motherlode. The schedule for hosted programs on the stream is here. You can hear all of the shows live on the stream, or archived for listening when its convenient. For updates and alerts, follow the stream on Twitter, like it on Facebook or email (send a request here).
Phat "...great title music; multi-faceted like a miniature suite and dramatic throughout, the action packed 'Koi Kahe Main Khanjar Hoon,' the funky, druggy and decidedly Burmanesque 'Yeh Nasha Jaan Meri Hai,' and finally the fabulous effect filled and fun sounding 'Rajni Hai Mera Naam.' I'm no expert on Bollywood movies, but I doubt there are that many song & dance numbers featuring disembodied singing heads. I approve." (Description by PC, at Music from the Third Floor)
Upon returning from a trip to Mexico on August 22, 1968, Tammy Wynette formally announced her marriage to George Jones. If Tammy hadn't been lying, today would be the 44th anniversary of their marriage. In reality, however, the couple got hitched six months later, on February 16, 1969 in Ringgold, Georgia, a frequent destination for Nashville elopers in those days.
Following their marriage, the couple relocated to Lakeland, Florida, where, adjacent to their home on Central Barn Road, they opened a short-lived outdoor country music venue called the Old Plantation Music Park.
Speaking of country music shows, George Jones recently announced that next year he's officially retiring from the road following a farewell tour that will take him to approximately 60 cities. If he comes to your town, you should probably go.
Notes: 1. Unlike most of the MP3s I post here, these two songs are still very findable in the marketplace, so they're offered here in truncated versions. 2. The photo above was borrowed from the 2010 book Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen by Jimmy McDonough.
history of the MP3 is one of technological innovation, consumer demand
and all-too-persistent litigation, often against those very consumers
who embraced the format in the heady post-Napster days. The story of
this resilient digital audio file has been recounted many times — from
the recording industry’s early wars of attrition to the MP3s role in the filesharing explosion to the bloggers who help curate an oversaturated music marketplace.
doesn’t garner as much discussion is how the MP3 format — celebrated,
reviled or somewhere in-between — has come to define the digital music
experience, both for millions of listeners, and for those who help drive
discovery. At one point, not so long ago, music bloggers sat near the
top of the curatorial heap, using MP3s to help create overnight stars
out of teenage indie rockers. Others highlighted niche genres and aural
nuggets from decades past.
first, MP3 bloggers were seen by the industry as freeloading pariahs,
but eventually even the major labels came to embrace this segment of the
online music community. Seeking a promotional fast track, the PR flaks
hit the blogosphere hard, cultivating relationships with known
tastemakers. Eventually, the pursuit of musical passion became a
business concern, or at worse, a hassle.
was a full-time music writer back when CDs were the promotional norm.
Over the course of time, the padded envelopes slowed to a trickle and my
inbox was flooded with MP3s from labels and publicists. It was frankly
hard to keep up. The annoyance factor eventually contributed to my
decision to do something different with my life.
know I’m not alone. Looking around these days, you could be forgiven
for thinking the “music blogger bubble” has popped. There are likely
several reasons beyond inbox fatigue. The rise of “social music” — where
friend networks replace curation via instant “recommendations” on
platforms like Facebook — surely has something to do with it. But
listening habits are also changing. No longer is downloading necessarily
the fastest and most convenient way to get your musical fix.
thinking about the future for MP3 blogging, it’s instructive to
consider how younger generations discover and access music. The
listening behaviors of those under 20 can tell us a lot about how
aspects of our networked world might evolve. A new Nielsen survey
suggests that YouTube has overtaken radio and CDs as the primary way
American teens listen to music. At 64 percent, YouTube listening is even
ahead of iTunes, which comes in at just over 50 percent. YouTube, is of
course, a “streaming” platform, which presents a potential challenge to
In other words, streaming access is rapidly becoming a norm. Recent reports show that Warner Music now counts streaming as 25 percent of its overall digital music revenue. This is certainly significant for a sector that has struggled for more than a decade with the implications of online music.
Time was, when a group of friends would get together, they'd fire up the reel to reel recorder and spend a few minutes recording the visit for posterity. Sometimes it might be conversation, sometimes it might be skits, sometimes it might be music. For me, finding such recordings on a secondhand reels of tape is like successfully panning for gold must be for a prospector. There is something special about hearing people enjoying each others company, and listening to the full throated, untrained but enthusiastic singing that rises up on such occasions. Today, two significantly different groups of people, recorded (mostly likely) not so many years apart from each other, enjoying fellowship and singing around the piano.
In the first tape, features a group of perhaps a half-dozen young adults. I believe this tape was in the same batch of tapes from which I excerpted the off color fairy tales two months ago, and two of the voices here sound to me like the same people who were on that tape. Don't be put off by the fairly out-of-tune rendition of "Row Row Row Your Boat" that leads off this segment - it gets more interesting, as they spend about 15 minutes going through a surprisingly wide variety of music. Throughout the eight or so songs, there is a great, infectious energy and a strong feeling of friendship.
My favorite point is probably when they veer from the traditional hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" directly into Tom Lehrer's wonderfully macabre "I Hold Your Hand in Mind". Another highlight is a version of "Jamaica Farewell" which manages to feature moments both of lovely harmony at some points and of seemingly tone-deaf singing at others. Then there's the moment that everyone in the group repeats an off color phrase, moments before launching into yet another hymn ("For the Beauty of the Earth"). If you stick around until the end, you'll hear a switch from piano to some nice acoustic guitar playing and a spirited rendition of "Bill Bailey".
The second recording features another group of friends, older than the first group, and made up of three couples, I believe, named (if I've heard things right) The Beaumonts, the Curtises and the Cohens, and a seventh person named Clara (another couple is mentioned later, but they do not seem to be heard on the recording). The recording here lasts about ten minutes. After the host couple engage in a bit of banter about recording their friends, and some giving of thanks, the other couples arrive, and more bantering for the microphone ensues.
A brief, sweet rendition of "Always" is followed by some joking comments about the performance, then a longer version of a song I don't recognize, and more jolly comments.
The remainder of the tape, as you'll hear, is poorly recorded, and I have cut out a lengthy solo version of the song "Some Enchanted Evening", sung by one of the women, due to it being particularly badly recorded. This rendition is referenced in the closing two minutes of the tape, in which various people present make some closing comments and thank their hosts for a nice evening.
Yesterday I got back from Squad School; today I’m a lot cleaner and covered in calamine lotion. Tomorrow I go back to work. I think Squad School was transformative, but I haven’t quite figured out how. I just know that I see things differently now.
I thought a lot about death while I was out in the woods last week, but then I always think a lot about death. (I wrote a book about it, so …) Of course, the human body is what it is, so the underlying causes of death are the same wherever you are, in the city or in the middle of the woods in a lightning storm huddling under a pile of sticks with a couple of strangers. Some of the main things that can kill you are trauma, wounds, heat, cold, dehydration, starvation, or disease, and those are basically the same wherever you are. But when you’re out in the woods, there’s another possible cause of your death, and that’s bewilderment.
Bewilder, meaning to wilder; wilder, an old word meaning to take someone out in the woods and get them thoroughly lost. Why? Because when you’re lost, and the world is strange, and it stops coinciding with the world you know and the reality you’ve constructed in your head to get through your day-to-day existence, then you see things differently. Literally. Being wildered can cause hallucinations, to the point where some cultures use it ceremonially: You’re taken out of your reality, and you come back different, you’re reborn.
I'm more of a peripheral student of the 1970's New York art film scene, and continually finding surprising new things to look at in that loose genre, I haven't worn it to a nub as with other film genres that I've studied since those days. Much of the interesting stuff from back then was really hard to see, it wasn't on cable or videotape - you had to know somebody. Recently my pardner was looking at film clips of legendarily-edgy actor Rip Torn and she pulled up this stunning scene from the end of Norman Mailer's self-written and directed 'Maidstone' (1970), and I found it a very compelling piece of footage, as I love studying very exreme theater and film experiments, and this one appeared to have gone totally haywire, or not; in my opinion, even though Torn is clearly high as a kite, he pushed the film into its most memorable area, reminding me of some scary psychodramatic theatrical 'happenings' that I've witnessed where there was little or no line between the 'drama' and the 'reality' of the moment. And of course Mailer makes such a ripe target to mess with. Some of the many famous names involved with this project were: D. A. Pennebaker, Isaac Hayes, and Ultra Violet. Even though this scene is rather harsh and scary (with some strong NSFW language), it's also hilarious in a David Lynchian kinda way, as it seems 'out of control' somewhat, but since the camera operator just keeps on running, and no one jumps in very soon to 'save' Mailer, at this point in the filming they must have known good and well what they were getting into.
Also included for your edification, the trailer from another Torn opus 'Coming Apart'... Enjoy.
Years later, after numerous imitators and front-man Jon Spencer's 90's Alternative Nation-esque stardom with his ubiquitous and hyped Blues Explosion excursions, one might sometimes forget just how completely radical and unhinged Pussy Galore were in their prime. Whether or not they were in on the nihilistic excesses is besides the point; they ruffled feathers (including rather infamously those of the more PC sectors of D.C.'s punk scene) and had the caustic sound to back up the bile. I'm sure I don't need to sell them in this space as I'm sure WFMU fanatics are well aware of the band's ability, but it bears sharing this great, grimy, scratchy VHS rip of the band tearing into their audience circa 1987. I'm still bummed that I missed their one-off reunion opening for Yo La Tengo last December, so this will have to suffice in the meanwhile. Ain't it always that way. Sigh....
I know, many of our readers here are averse to the idea that animated gifs are art. But still, whenever I see some clever web app, regardless of how crassly novel it is, I always get super jealous them sheer hard coding skills. Here are a few cool interactive and creative sites I've come across recently.
You Are Listening To is a website that mashes live police radio streams from a variety of cities with drone and ambient music sourced from Soundcloud. Sounds excellent, and it's very addicting! Listening for an hour or so the other day, I heard radio from a car chase in progress, a man trapped in an elevator and some cop complaining about how bad traffic is.
PointerPointer is a web-app that detects where your cursor is and then pulls an image with a person pointing at your cursor from a huge library of party shots.
The Museum of Endangered Sounds lets you click and listen to sounds from defunct technologies. 56k modem login sounds, fax machines, Speak and Spell toys, etc.
Staggering Beauty is a site where you...ummmm....make this little worm guy rave....trust me on this one.
The Blonk Organ is an interactive instrument that samples Jaap Blonk. He's one of my favorite extended vocalists...by which I mean, yes, all those sounds are produced by his mouth.
Tug of Store is a very ad-friendly app that lets users debate in realtime over whether a product sucks or not by playing a virtual tug-of-war game.
Though I've not heard of it being implemented, Upside-Down Ternet is a funny prank - you can set up your wireless router so that anybody who uses your wireless network (ie, cheapskate neighbors) sees all the images on websites they look at flipped upside down!
If you're new to the Motherlode, let me take a moment out of my maniacal head-long search for great music to explain. For the past 25 years I've produced a radio show for WFMU. The station's format is nominally freeform, which essentially means there is no predetermined format. Each DJ on the air makes their own idiosyncratic choices of what to say and play, and for the duration of that show represents exactly what WFMU is. For me, WFMU represents the opportunity to share my own personal musical epiphanies in a communal setting.
In recent years, my search for sounds to share on the radio has led to the ever-widening online universe of music-sharing blogs. Mining the Audio Motherlode is weekly survey of my favorite such discoveries. Let me know what you think.
Titanic Tenor Listen for ten seconds to any solo by this titan of Ethiopian saxophone and his primary influence seems obvious: free-jazz apostle Albert Ayler. But Mèkurya, only a year older than Ayler, actually began playing professionally when his American counterpart—whom he has never heard—was still taking private lessons. Chronologies aside, the abundant points of comparison are separated-at-birth spooky. They both play with a strained, breathless attack; a chanted-not-sung delivery; a wildly oscillating vibrato; and a pacific lyricism thinly veiling a molten spirit. (Description from my Favorites of '03 page)
This late '50s album by Russ Garcia, originally released on the Liberty label, wholly epitomizes the values of Space Age Bachelor Pad music -- very dated (but very fascinating) cover art and some of the most unusual sounds on Earth (or elsewhere!), along with that essential Atomic Age vibe that pop music from the time period captured so damn well. In many ways, this album also sounds so far ahead of its time that it would still be considered innovative even by today's standards.
I've heard this straight-through on more than several instances and all I can say is that this is a really incredible record. It is so incredible, in fact, that I fear no words could possibly do it justice. Listening to it will ultimately give you the impression you need, possibly even more so with this album than any old "average" one. This is mostly an instrumental adventure (except for the occasional abstract female vocal), and it is not quite as Big Band as some might be led to believe. Fantastica incorporates a great variety of sound effects, including tape manipulation and gelatin water (more on that in a minute..), as well as orchestral arrangement. The orchestra, however, is used in a wildly different fashion than what is generally associated with the early years of stereophonic sound. I think I can hear tinges of Varese-like meanderings and some of the more bizarre modern classical stylings worked into this, which is rare considering that Fantastica was really a "mainstream" effort. Also worthy of note is that, of music from space age, this is probably one of the most effective albums in terms of "taking you away from Earth" -- the spaced out exotic/impressionistic atmosphere is so thick you can cut it with a knife.
A huge, huge thanks to my pal Gabe for directing me toward this interview with DJ Premier and Pete Rock in which the two legends relay wonderfully detailed stories behind the creation of some of their most notable records. In my mind, they are hands down the two most important producers in 90's hip-hop (and both top my list of favorite hip-hop producers of all-time, along with Large Professor), and thus this sit-down is indispensable for any fan of the genre circa the early to mid 90's. Here how Rock ghost-produced A Tribe Called Quest's "Jazz (We've Got)", how an overbooked Premier crafted Biggie's "Unbelievable" at the last minute, how Jeru The Damaja's "Come Clean" was nearly a more expansive sonic affair, how Premier scrapped his original production of Nas' "Represent" during the recording of Illmatic after being floored by Rock's work on "The World Is Yours," how Diddy infamously jacked Rock's ideas for Biggie's "Juicy" without giving proper credit....shit, the whole thing is a treasure for any serious head. This chat was available as a bonus on a DVD release documenting a battle/show Rock and Premier undertook in Japan. Without question, this is essential viewing: