Tuesday, September 25, 2007

prEMO, dude

In the 1990s, it suddenly became musically fashionable to strip down the tenets of hardcore music and use aspects of it to produce profitably safe rock and roll music for the general listening public. The most blatant musical "style" to emanate from this change in approach to marketing music was grunge.

If grunge were to have a red-headed stepchild, its name would be emo.

Although, this writer would much rather remain unschooled in the musical make up of this specific genre, it's safe to say that it's easily identified by its loud, screeching guitars accompanied by EMOtional singing. The unfortunate thing is that it comes off seeming rather foolish; as if somehow these kids who create this music are attempting to mold themselves into a modern-day, hipsteresque, American interpretation of Morrissey but lacking the poetic verse to carry it with the same flavor and character that the ex-Smithy possesses.

However, despite this genre's shortcomings and lack of insight, there can always be an exception to the perceived norm. This exception speaks itself rather loudly in the form of the Chicago trio Today's My Super Spaceout Day. Although, the name of the band is very indicative of this style of musical musing, the engineering quality of the album Stars Made From Scars is phenomenal and the band's live performance equals that. A live performance of the band hints at reminiscence of live acts by bands such as Joy Division but with a modern bent that keeps one plugged into the present. It's the best of both worlds. The mulitple textures and layers of the music itself is something to behold; Areos Ledesma of The Dust Lounge, Christian Adams, and Blaise Barton of Scientific Mastering (not forgetting the musicians themselves!) have created a masterpiece, if anyone could boast some such polyglot about an emo album.

Stars Made From Scars

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Soul from El Paso

Marina Monsivais was a DJ at a local radio station called KHRO in El Paso, Texas. Since she was in a city that wasn't necessarily known for its thriving music scene or diverse musical airplay, she was empowered to take certain liberties that might not necessarily have been available for her in a so-called thriving bastion of local music like that of Austin.

As time progressed, she found herself booking punk shows in El Paso, along with hosting a radio show of her own devising that reflected the music scene that existed in El Paso. In the hopes of promoting several local acts for the purpose of signing them to bigger labels, she started her own record label called Communal Heart Records. The compilation Music Is Our Blood, Blood Is Our Bond was the culmination of her efforts in achieving this heartfelt goal.

On this compilation not only will you hear bands that were the musical precursors to the groups At The Drive In (Lovetron and Nakia) and The Mars Volta (Universal Recovered) but you will also hear bands who were considered their auditory compatriots and played many gigs alongside them. This album is a decent collection of bands that represented the El Paso music scene around the time period that At The Drive In and The Mars Volta were merely a burgeoning tide that would soon wash itself across the hordes of those who identify with the hipster element that exists in Texas.

Music Is Our Blood, Blood Is Our Bond: Auditory Statements By El Paso Artists Of The Past, Present And Future

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Voz del Poeta

Released in 1999 and currently out of print is a reading of poetry by Pablo Neruda. Found in a used CD bin for less than $5 the same year of its release, this disk is now worth $100.

This set of recordings was captured in 1966 during Neruda's visit to the United States. Government policy at that time barred devout communists from visiting the US, but Arthur Miller was successful in garnering enough support to allow the readings of Neruda's poetry to occur on American soil.

No musical instruments nor a cheering crowd accompany Neruda on these recordings. His voice is heard as it was meant to be- a lone voice carrying with it all the passion and rhythm that only a master sculptor of the Spanish language can deliver.

Pablo Neruda Lee Sus Poemas

Pablo Neruda Lee Sus Poemas Liner Notes (Spanish)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mama et la Physique

This CD is a re-mastering of old Dada "classics" as well as a series of new recordings of compositions put together by the likes of Satie, Germaine Albert-Birot, Hugo Ball, Honegger, Tristan Tzara, Cyril Scott, Jean Arp, Schonberg, Poulenc, Kurt Schwitters, George Antheil, Marinetti, Vincente Huidobro, Milhaud, Max Ernst, Raoul Haussman, Erwin Schulhoff, and Richard Huelsenbeck. The collection was compiled for an exhibition on Dada at the Centre Pompidou in France in 2005.

The Centre Pompidou, named after the president of France, was built as the result of a contest that was won by a small group of architectural nobodies in 1971. The structure was not well received at first but under the care of its first director, Pontus Hultén, that quickly changed. Now the building is celebrated as a space that has "revolutionized museums" with its color coded tubing that specifies its contents: water, electricity, heat, and air. It also houses IRCAM (the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), the Musée National d'Art Moderne, the Bibliothèque publique d'information, and Stravinsky Fountain. The water faucets in the restrooms can have their temperature adjusted much in the same way that one moves their hands when playing the theremin.

"It is my belief that exciting things happen when a variety of overlapping activities designed for all people—the old and the young, the blue and white collar, the local inhabitant and the visitor, different activities for different occasions—meet in a flexible environment, opening up the possibility of interaction outside the confines of institutional limits. When this takes place, deprived areas welcome dynamic places for those who live, work and visit; places where all can participate, rather than less or more beautiful ghettos." - Richard Rogers (co-creator of the Centre Pompidou)

Dada Et La Musique/And Music was a collection that was out of print until yesterday- oddly enough. This must be the time of year to put old CDs back in print as the Amebix album that was posted was also an out of print CD until about a week ago.

Dada Et La Musique/And Music Liner Notes (English)

Dada Et La Musique/And Music Liner Notes (French)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Who's Driving Now?

Amebix has been touted as the first crust band in existence. For a definitive description of this particular genre of punk music, read Felix Von Havoc's article on the Rise of Crust (found on the website of Havoc Records). The use of dark imagery combined with a lo-fi approach to audio engineering that is uncommon for bands who have a sound that smacks of heavy metal seems to be a defining characteristic of this musical style. You won't hear the obsessive quest for finely-crafted sound sculpting that is all-pervasive in the metal arena on an Amebix recording; although it can be dangerous to toy with words when it comes to describing "sub-genres" of music so this is as far as this thought will be taken. (There was a day and age when there was no need for concern amongst underground or alternative musicians to wrap their music into a neatly-bundled package so as to make a tantalizing product fit for consumption by the masses, but whatever...)

This CD was the last recording that was issued by the band before their breakup. Despite the obvious HR Giger rip off artwork on the front cover, it's quite good. An interesting thing about this band was their use of the synthesizer and audio production techniques that are so subtle, you don't realize that they're even there until you've heard the album many times over. For examples of this on the Monolith album, listen to the track The Power Remains. About 1:15 into the song, you can hear the synthesizer harmonizing the guitar riffs, however the synthesizer never overpowers or even equals the volume of the guitar, so its voice is just a faint glimmer in the actual recording. However, if the presence of this synthesizer were stripped from the actual recording, the sense of doom that exists within the recording would be absent, making the band lose some of its emotional punch. When you get further into the meat of the track (about 2:45), you can hear the "back masking" (to co-opt a phrase often used by the Christian right) of the drums; a feat that was created by physically playing a tape recording in reverse while capturing the whole song on various tracks in the recording studio onto a master tape. A feat that could be more difficult than one could imagine in 1987- especially with a band consisting of squatters who ate out of trash bins in order to get by and refused to go on the dole to obtain assistance. Bear in mind that this was an underground recording done in a purely analog recording studio. Digital recordings were just barely being conducted and it was an extremely expensive technology. Digital recording was strictly used in capturing classical music recordings and big money record labels who could afford the costs; the result of which was a musical irony as it had to be brought back into the analog realm in order to be pressed to the LP format. The majority of music listeners in the mainstream were still buying cassette tapes, while underground bands dealt mostly in vinyl, so it was a vastly different world for musicians to live in when compared by today's standards.

Apparently, Amebix are in the process of putting together some kind of discography of their work after a prolonged battle over their existing recorded work with John Loder of Southern Studios. The band states on their website that Loder was denying them royalties for their work by diverting the funds into his personal account. It would be interesting to know more about this situation, as the picture that Penny Rimbaud (of Crass) paints of Loder seems far different than the "cunt" described on Amebix's website. See the obituary Rimbaud wrote after Loder's death in 2005.


Communication Breakdown

A compilation of rarities put together by Leigh Goorney, the past booking agent for the venue known as the Thames Poly. Many may believe that one person can't make a difference in the world. However, the existence of this album is proof that this idea many of us cling to can be shattered in an instant when we choose to see beyond the illusion that many allow themselves to be walled in by. This post is dedicated to that spirit of individuality that exists within us all.

This album is an amazing piece of work. It opens with The Eels' Granny, a bitter and somewhat humorous portrayal of youthful friendships ended by meddlesome family members. Later in the disk can be heard the utterances of Mark Perry accompanied by undanceable instrumentation. This is immediately followed up by The Mekons' take on Sammi Smith and Kris Kristofferson's Help Me Make It Through The Night. Another high point on the album is The Three Majohnas' cover of Madonna's Like A Virgin. This flows into a presence of the anarcho-punk scene in the guise of recordings by The Very Things, Conflict, and The Poison Girls. The live recording of Sonic Youth's Kill Your Idols will completely obliterate your aural senses. The CD finishes with Television Personalities' intense anti-war anthem Back To Vietnam.

Although, this CD release is a stripped-down version of the double LP originally released in 1985, there were some incredible gigs captured on audio at this venue. Included in the liner notes of the album is a lengthy list of gigs that had been booked and recorded by Leigh Goorney. If Leigh has a music blog somewhere in the electronic realm, that particular blog would be highly recommended!

Communicate! Live At Thames Poly

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"I Inhabit the World of Concrete Systems"

Saccharine Trust began their musical career on the SST Records label and thus did a lot of touring with Black Flag and the Minutemen. Although, their musical compatriots were described as hardcore bands, there was always a free jazz element that grew and became stronger with each studio recording that was issued by the group.

The logo, depicting a crucified snake on two wooden planks in the shape of a cross, was derived from a tattoo on the arm of Earl Liberty, the second bass player in the band. He had the tattoo etched on his forearm after a stint in the hospital that occurred after fleeing the police from a gig that had gone awry. It's safe to say that the name of the band emanated as a result of the Food & Drug Administration's debate and investigation into the safety of the manufacturing of Saccharin for use in food products as a sweetener- an issue that was very prominent during the 1980s.

The bass lines on any Saccharine Trust release are infectious to the listener and this collection of live recordings that spanned the band's career aren't any different. A particularly fun track on the double LP is their cover of Black Flag's Six Pack with Kira (bass player from Black Flag's later years) singing backing vocals.

Past Lives