Sunday, June 22, 2008

Steinski- remix as artform

Steinski (born Steve Stein) claims that he's no mash-up artist and he's right about that. And while Girl Talk will get much more attention for putting out yet another in growing list of sudden pay-what-you like releases, some credit should be given to one of his musical forefathers.

Originally coming to notice for his brainy, creative remix of G.L.O.B.E. and Whiz Kid "Play That Beat," Steinski and partner Double Dee (Doug DiFranco) made history by piling on sonic cultural references from all over the map, pushing the whole idea of 'remix' to a new art level with "The Lesson." The problem was that they didn't (and couldn't afford to) clear all the samples, a situation which still plagues the classic track and its two follow-ups to this day.

"The Lesson" appeared on a few hip hop compilations and now appears on Steinski's own compilation on Illegal Art (which also happens to be Girl Talk's label) called What Does It All Mean? Like GT, the label proudly flaunts copyright clearance and the idea of 'fair use' for its multi-sample kaleidoscope of music, which means that like the other compilations his work has appeared on, it may not be available for long.

For now though, the good folks at Illegal Art have offered up the three tracks that made Steinski a hero in the hip hop world:

The Payoff Mix

Lesson Two

Lesson Three

Plus you can listen to an interview with Steinski talking about the origin of the Lessons. As Howard Tate once said, get it while you can.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Teenage Jesus and the Jerks- no wave nostalgia

Two pieces of agenda for my Village Voice article about Lydia Lunch reuniting her No Wave band Teenage Jesus & the Jerks for a one-night show in New York at the Knitting Factory- 1) Avatistic is going to reissue all their material on one CD again this summer (the original one is pictured left and came out in 1995) and K.S. Art gallery (right across from the Knit) is having an exhibition of photos and flyers from the same time period, many of them featured in Thurston Moore/Byron Coley's No Wave book (which was the original inspiration for the TJ reunion). You can also see this Flickr page with some good photos from the show.

Oh, and one more thing... Lunch has been presenting a project called "Ghosts of Spain" across Europe, which she describes as a "psycho ambient soundtrack about about desert, loneliness, desert, war." Sad to say, she hasn't found any U.S. venue or promoter to present this in the States, which is why the TJ date was her only show in the States.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Thermidor returns

For all of you punk and post-punk music nuts out there, the name Thermidor should ring a bell. It was one of the many wonderful tiny indie labels from the 80's run by future SST capo and future author Joe Carducci- also see his great recent memoir Enter Naomi, put out by Redoubt Press.

Thermidor put out records by Flipper, Minutemen and the Birthday Party among others before folding. Carducci is now resurrecting this as a film company. One of the movies in production is described as such: "At mid-century, training for routine space duty is interrupted by an approaching cataclysm, and the mission becomes an ad hoc attempt to seed the nearest planet with a crew featuring naturals, bio-engineered humans, and replicants." The other offering so far is the noir clip above which they describe as "Hollywood leading man of the forties and fifties picks up a stag model hitchhiker on the Boulevard in the sixties." In addition, they have some fun videos at their YouTube channel that you should check out.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Vision Festival- version 2.008

My mind is slipping, otherwise I would have been touting the 2008 edition of New York's finest jazz festival, or maybe it's best annual music festival, period. The Vision Festival is back and this year it's at the Clemente Solo Velez center on the Lower East side. The Kidd Jordan tribute evening has passed and this evening, they had a great line-up with sax man Oliver Lake, James Spaulding's amazing group Swinging Expressions, Hamiet Bluiett 's group Bio-Electric (with Billy Bang) and dancer Kazuko Miyamoto's moving silent piece (sad to say, I missed Whit Dickey and Daniel Carter's new band). Still coming up in the next few days is the Matthew Shipp Trio, Wadada Leo Smith Golden Quintet, Sabir Mateen / Henry Grimes Quartet, William Parker's Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield with Youth Choir and panel discussions. If that wasn't enough, they server wholesome, healthy chow (including humus and fruit salad) to help enjoy the show. You can't go wrong, really.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Blurt Magazine arrives

Admittedly, I'm not a totally disinterested party since I write for them but even if I didn't, I would still be happy to report that the nice people who brought you Harp magazine have now revived themselves and created a free digital magazine called BLURT (as in "Let It..." from the Lester Bangs single of the same name).

There you will find features on Jamie Lidell (who has a great new album out), My Morning Jacket, Man Man and Mike Patton among others, plus news, videos and a discussion board that's just starting up.

And what's Blurt about and how's it distinct from Harp? I asked managing editor Fred Mills who said this about the magazine.

In our early discussions about Blurt, which commenced very shortly after we'd gotten the word that the plug was being pulled on Harp, we felt like we had some momentum we didn't want to squander. So all along we wanted to make sure that whatever form Blurt ultimately took, it would still make a connection with the old Harp readership - that if they liked Harp, they'd like Blurt. At the same time, we wanted to push things more than just a few steps forward and challenge that Harp readership alongside a fresh pool of readers to follow us and give us a chance to express our editorial vision in new ways. Not to get all George Bush on your ass, but I call that "spending some of the capital we accrued with Harp." Our next step, obviously, is to invade a small country where Blurt will be greeted with open arms as musical liberators.

To that end, it seems that Blurt has got a lot of freedom to try out stuff that we simply couldn't do with a print magazine like Harp - for example, we could only fit about 80 CD reviews in any given issue due to a fixed page count, but as of today, with Blurt's launch, we already have twice that manyreviews in place. We can do website exclusives with unlimited word count: if we get in a really interesting interview, why not run the entire transcript rather than boil it down to 1000-2000 words. And of course all along we intended to have audio and video content, blogs and forums, stuff that we'd long been trying to get going for the Harp site but for various reasons were stymied in our efforts.

We still loved the idea of a magazine "format" so the idea of creating both an interactive website AND a companion digital magazine was appealing. Kind of having the best of both worlds. So as we moved forward we were really working two sides of our brains: one kind of old-school (classic magazine layouts with physically defined pages) for the digital mag Blurt, and one more new media, Web 2.0 minded (the Blurt-online website plus the interactive features embedded in the magazine).

In summary, meet the new Blurt, definitely not the same as the old Harp, but certainly arriving with clear ties to its predecessor.

Blurt founder/editor-in-chief Scott Crawford adds:
I think the appeal of Blurt to me is the freedom to it represents. We can try things in ways that could've never been tested within the working environment that Harp was a part of. That's the exciting part for me. If Harp was the launching pad, I'd like to think of BLURT as the liftoff....

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Bottle Rockets- step right up!

Maybe they call themselves 'roots rock' because 'Southern rock' ain't always a compliment (at least to some highbrows) but that's exactly what the Bottle Rockets play and they do it so well that they only trail Drive-By Truckers in the genre (and not by much). I'd go as far as saying that 1997's 24 Hours A Day is an almost perfect record and one of the finest offerings of the last decade. Brian Henneman doesn't just have a good feel for catchy songs but he has more of a feel for working class blues than most any Democrat candidate from this election season.

Now doing a 15th anniversary tour, Henneman told an appreciative, sold-out crowd at New York's Mercury Lounge, "We've been making set lists for fifteen year, now it's your turn!" And that wasn't just some wolf tickets he was selling either- he meant every word of it.

The band has been running a contest on their website where they asked fans to write a 20 song setlist for them. Henneman said that they'd gotten about 400 so far and had to chop it down to their favorite 15 entries for the latest tour. You have to bring the form to one of their shows but you don't have to be at the show that they pick your entry to win. And what do you get? Your choice of Henneman's $1500 guitar or "Bottle Rockets for life," which includes their whole catalog and every T-shirt but their entire future catalog and merchandise- as Henneman points out, if you chose the later, you're making an investment (and leap of faith) on the band's future. You can read through their website for more details and other ways to enter.

"For some songs, we were surprised that they were popular," Henneman told the New York crowd as he went through a set list that one fan had submitted to them. "It's also a look into the minds of our fans..." he said later.

On one hand, this might seem a little silly and crass but in this age when indie bands are lining up to get their songs positioned in commercials and TV shows, the Rockets seem to have a commendable idea. Not only do they get the fans involved but they also let them potentially pick out their songs for the shows and give them chances to get goodies in the bargain too. Crass? Hell no, it's brilliant.

And OK, they're not the first band to make offers like this to fans but it's definitely an appealing idea that other bands should take notice of and think of their own spin on it. Maybe they could offer a private show or a trip with the band to shows (if they wanna crowd in a van) or the chance to introduce the band at shows or something else like that. You call those gimmicks but as for me, sign me up.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Neil Innes- of Bonzos, Rutles and himself

There's been a flurry of activity around Neil Innes lately and music nuts everywhere can count that as a good thing. Along with a strange Rutles tribute revue that made the rounds in New York and L.A. (which expert scribe Jesse Jarnow guesses might have been a test run to follow Spamalot's theatrical run), there was also a Bonzo Dog Band reunion that just occurred yesterday in the UK (which we're sorry we missed).

But fear not though. The Bonzos, sadly minus the late Vivian Stanshall, also regrouped in 2006 and recorded it for posterity on DVD.

If that wasn't enough, you lucky folks in L.A. will get a chance not only to see Mr. Innes perform at the end of this month but there's also screenings of the '06 Bonzo reunion and a documentary about Innes happening then too. Details about all the fun are at the Frozen pictures blog.

Monday, June 02, 2008

RIP Bo Diddley

Sad to see a great rock pioneer like this go. I only had the chance to see him live once at Little Steven's International Garage festival a few years ago on Randall's Island. He had a bad back so he could only play seated but he still smoked on guitar and even tried a funny rap at the end of his set. There's also a great Rolling Stone article about Bo by Neil Strauss- I only hope that those great guitar jams he describes in the article come out for public consumption one day.

Here's a clip of Bo wowing a bunch of screaming teenagers in 1966 from the Big TNT Show. Dig his fancy footwork and those killer riffs plus the girl trio including the Duchess on guitar.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

PSF and new articles

OK, a little self-promo here but hopefully some stuff you'll enjoy. A new edition of Perfect Sound Forever is out now. This is the issue edited by rock crit dean Robert Christgau and includes articles from his students in his Princeton class, featuring... the Savoy Music Center of Louisiana, Sacred Steel music*, Keith Green*, Burlesque revival, Janet Jackson*, MTV's the Hills*, Emo revisited, Beat Happening, Timbaland, Killswitch Engage, OutKast, Joe Budden*, Sublime and Khaled* (asterisks artists are pictured on the left). Check it out now at the PSF home-spot.

In addition, I have a Village Voice review of krautrock legends Cluster and their first New York show in ages and a Film Comment interview with RZA of Wu Tang Clan about his favorite martial arts movies and how that's shaped his musical work. Also look out later this year for my liner notes to two Tom Verlaine reissues, Dreamtime and Words from the Front, both coming out on Collector's Choice.