Archive for December, 2010

Gone Skiing

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Dear Readers:

We’re off on an exclusive ski vacation in the Swiss alps, so you probably won’t be hearing from us until Monday, January 3rd. Nothing better than curling up before the fire in your own personal chalet, but it’s hard to stay connected when you’ve only got dial-up! Anyway, here’s a little snow-themed number for the road. Please remember to party responsibly, and we’ll see you in the new year!

Real Estate, “Snow Days”

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Endless House Foundation Unearths 1977 Radio Interview with Resident Composer Walter Schnaffs

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Endless House, everybody’s favorite failed electronic music commune from  the early 1970s, has been brought back to life in a new 12-track compilation by London’s Dramatic Records. The brainchild of Czech audiophile/venture capitalist/megalomaniac Jiri Kantor, this high modernist fortress in glass and chrome once was once home to a revolving coterie of composers with cool synthesizers and Werner Herzog accents; according to Kantor, Endless House was a “multimedia discotheque” of sorts, destined to form “the cradle of a new European sonic community.” Too bad it was stuck in the middle of the Bialowieska Forest, and demolished in its scintillating entirety after only six months! Learn more from this “1977 BBC Radio Hungary” interview by renegade composer “Walter Schnaffs”, whose “brand of dubbed-out collage,” sampled below, reportedly “underwhelmed  Kantor and his staff over-paid taste makers.”

Walter Schnaffs, “I Am Germany”

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For more of a sense of the collective’s “house style”, peep this Kantor-favorite  by “Rasmus Folk”, spotlighted by 20 Jazz Funk Greats on Altered Zones a few weeks back

Rasmus Folk, “Coupe”

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Sightings: SFV Acid live at Mustache Mondays

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Live videos of dance music are always an interesting pickle. So much of the performance is actually about the way the music moves the crowd, rather than the showmanship of the performer. You simply cannot shoot a dance music artist the same way that you would shoot a rock music set up. This video of LA’s SFV Acid, shot by Let Listen, seems to make it work. Rather than making the performer the central focus, we are invited into the crowd at La Cita for the inner-workings of the dance party. When we do see the performance, we are behind the decks, watching his hands go to work. This method illustrates an important element of dance music; so much of it is about the crowd and the atmosphere of the night.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

Video: Let Listen

My Drone Year: Part 2: of Emeralds and Expos

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Expo 70

In my previous column, I discussed the challenges of discussing “the year in music” when I spent a good part of that time listening to a narrow strain of drone and experimental music. This time I’ll discuss two groups so prolific and talented that it wouldn’t be hard to spend an entire year focused on them alone.

Two groups in particular defined my experience this year, through their primary outlets and various side and solo projects. The first of these is Kansas City’s Expo 70. Expo 70 is the nom d’artiste of one Justin Wright, who also designs the vast majority of the artwork for Expo 70’s releases. Since the 2005 emergence of the Surfaces CD-R on Kill Shaman, Wright has issued more than thirty different releases under the Expo 70 name, ranging from limited-run tapes and mini-CD-Rs to thick slabs of vinyl with drone epics etched onto their surfaces. Early work was confined to Wright, but lately he has been joined by Matt Hill on bass and electronics.

The dominant sound of Expo 70 is a spacey, atmospheric drone, a formula revisited with each release. Sometimes flirting with pure noise, but never committing and impossibly patient, Wright’s music earnestly embodies the spirit of imagined ’70s drone and space rock. Wright riffs on the slow, meditative aesthetic that runs from Tony Conrad, La Monte Young and John Cale’s early minimalist experiments to the slow-burn lurch of doom godfathers Sleep. What separates Wright from other contemporary practitioners is the immediate impression that Wright has absorbed this material and not merely name-checked it. Expo 70’s sound is the product of someone who has taken the time to fully absorb the impenetrable churn of  Table of the Elements‘ landmark New York In the 1960s box set, rather than the uninspired din of yet another disheveled basement-dweller disinterestedly plucking at a detuned guitar while tapping on a delay pedal.

Sightings: Deep Magic “Ocean Breaths 1”

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

deep magic ‘ocean breaths 1’ from deeptapes on Vimeo.

“Ocean Breaths 1” by Oakland’s Deep Magic (aka Alex Gray) is one of the most aptly titled songs I’ve heard in a while. Its nine-and-a-half minute run takes us on a shoegazing journey colored by bells, shakers, and the sound of slow, deep breaths. If you’ve been running around town, and have somehow forgotten to breathe, this meditative track will remind you. The visuals, which Gray produced on his own, are the sort of ethereal psychedelic fare that is very popular these days. We’re shown scenes of the African animals in the plains, layered over images of Ocean predators. At certain moments, geometric shapes and skyscrapers are introduced into the main motif, but we are mostly pushed deep into the two nature motifs. While I’m personally a little wary of pretty/trippy found footage in my own work, the deep focus on nature here works perfectly for this cleansing, zen track. The marriage of the two creates a space worth taking a break in.


Listening Through The Wall: How To Dress Well and the New Blue-Eyed Soul

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

In one of my few surviving childhood memories, dated around 1991 or 1992, my first exposure to FM radio coincides with my first taste of a second type of “pop”: a classic green can of Schweppes Ginger Ale, emptied with a straw over a slice at Smiley’s Pizza on 7th avenue in Park Slope. Long before I knew that I was listening to R&B and hip-hop — or that the word “pop”, musically speaking, derived from the word “popular”– I somehow got the idea that the high-pitched vocal melisma droning pleasantly from the ceiling-speakers originated in the tingly feeling that carbonated beverages produce in the nose. “Ginger Ale Music”, as I called it, involved a distinctly nasal type of singing– best reproduced by filling the lungs with air, plugging the noise, and flitting acrobatically around a sassy melody line. It also exuded an aura of “otherness” – not yet linked to anything so complicated as race or sexuality (for it was only disembodied radio voices that I heard), but amplified by the fact that I only encountered it at Smiley’s, once or twice a week, while indulging in other parentally controlled delights, like pizza and soda.

The other thing about “Ginger Ale Music” was that it combined everything I heard at the Pizza place into one, uninterrupted musical idea. Unlike hip-hop and R&B, it was a form without authors (none whom I could personally identify, anyway), and was composed of a continuous stream of half-remembered fragments, fading in and out of earshot like competing radio signals on the road. Later on, when I began seeking out my first cassette tapes, I learned to pick out a few tunes that had climbed their way onto this endless soundtrack, which seemed to linger under my breath at all times: Mariah Carey’s “Dream Lover” (1993), Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” (1992), Boys II Men’s “River Runs Dry” (1994). For the most part, however, “Ginger Ale” music was a product of my own imagination — a collage of refrains and melodramatic flourishes that had once originated in something outside of me, but that I had digested into something entirely my own.

Sightings: Linda Perhacs, “Hey, Who Really Cares?”

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Yesterday, like most days, I spent the hours before my shift at a worldwide retail giant clicking play buttons next to numerous MP3s on the “World Wide Web.” Coming across the apparently legendary Linda Perhacs for this first time in this manner might make me a “n00b” of the highest order, but this scenario proves why reissues of forgotten classics, like Perhacs’ 1970 album Parallelograms, remain important. Thanks to the folks at Mexican Summer, countless others and myself can continue to be taken in by Perhacs’ stunning work.

Not long after my first experience with this song, “Hey, Who Really Cares?”, I found myself in a conversation with a friend working as a bank teller next door to my apartment. She told me, “…and on top of everything else Marc, my personal life is completely falling apart.” I smiled before shaking my head, shrugging, and asking her to join the club. In my head, the two of us — and the rest of our underemployed, graduating class — were sitting cross-legged somewhere in the woods, listening to Perhacs’ play this gentle song. We all nod our heads and feel sorry for the song’s narrator, whose hopelessness has smothered whatever spark of optimism once remained. But then we sit up, and we look around and realize all cannot be lost. A 1970 psych-folk album written by a professional dentist just loaded on our iPods; we march toward the future.

Linda Perhacs, “Hey Who Really Cares” (Parallelograms, Mexican Summer)

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Sightings: Mane Mane “Skin Fox (yuk remix)”

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

For the past couple of months I’ve been pretty crazy for LA beat artist yuk. On his debut album, A D W A, he fuses organic sound collage and intoxicating rhythms in a way that puts his work in a celestial realm. UUU Tapes, an imprint run by Ian Nelson of Friendship Bracelet, is set to release a free EP of remixes of the song “Skin Fox” by Mane Mane. yuk is one of the featured remixers, along with Dem Hunger, Dro Carey, and Gobble Gobble. The original track brings me back to the ’90s R&B that ruled the radio waves when I was an adolescent. It is an honest-to-god booty-shaker. yuk takes the track and puts it on his own wavelength, as any skilled remixer would. While the original track plays like a spacey club anthem, this one sounds like a heavenly chorus of angels singing a Bond theme. Like every track I’ve heard from yuk, this one seamlessly pairs nature and electronics.

Skin Fox (yuk remix)

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Skin Fox (original)

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Words: Samantha Cornwell

Keep your eyes peeled for the free EP, and for Mane Mane’s debut album (Mane2Mane) on UUU Tapes

Sightings: Sun Araw and matthewdavid, “LIVE PHREAXXX”

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Two of LA’s finest sonic explorers, Cameron Stallones (Sun Araw) and matthewdavid, got together to create the exceptional LIVEPHREAXXX tape.  This guitar-free recording sets itself apart from much of Sun Araw’s catalogue, but evokes the ghetto blaster tones of the recent “Last Chants“. Beat master matthewdavid’s live remix gives the 30 minute tape a liquid Sci-Fi aura. The full recording was overseen by illustrious producer Aristocrat P. Child (?), who recounts the session below:

“The legendary invite-only parties at SUN ARK STUDIOS had reached a climax in late summer of 2010; steamy, ambiguous police actions, lenticular object sightings, and spontaneous dance-floor teleportations all  pointed at a sinister portal that would have to be danced through. For the 3am set, MATTHEWDAVID joined SUN ARAW onstage for the moment of germination: SUN ARAW retrieved melodic objects while MD dilated, distended, folded, and flung them through the gateway.  After listening from the control room with eyes closed, I wandered onto the dancefloor: the partygoers had vanished, and the entities that were moving to these grooves were tough to identify, multiplying rapidly in fractal-like patterns and slipping sideways into shadow.  I caught a cab and got out of there.  I have no idea who finished the recording.”


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Words: Samantha Cornwell with Aristocrat P. Child

LIVEPHREAXXX is available this week from Leaving Records. If you’re in Los Angeles on December 17, and want to get lenticular, check out WHERE IS YOUR CHILD? With DJs Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras.

VR Vimeo: Woodsman live in Los Angeles

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Woodsman- Live at the Bacchus- Los Angeles, CA 11/13/2010 from Samantha Cornwell on Vimeo.

Last month Denver Colorado’s Woodsman treated the people of Los Angeles to an epic set of guitar-heavy, druggy jams. They played at The Bacchus, a former brothel toward the Southwest corner of the city. It was my first visit to the venue, and I have to say that the decor made no secret of its former identity. Towards the end of the night, we all crammed into the tiny back room to hear Woodsman unleash their fury. It was the kind of music that reaches right for my heart. Although we were in an LA whorehouse, I found myself transported to a Bazaar in Istanbul. Belly dancers were all that was missing…