Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Electronic Music interview- past, present, future

Student Henry Plotnick, whose father describes him as a 'minimalist, electronic music fanatic' was doing a research project on electronic music for school and needed to interview subjects about this. I partook in this questionnaire, focusing on the OHM- Early Gurus of Electronic Music box set that I co-produced, and here's the result. 


1. What musical discovery (do you think) has lead to the most progression in electronic music?

I think one of the most important things that came out of electronic music in terms of musical discoveries is the re-imagining of what is considered 'noise' and what is considered 'music' even though that battle and the surrounding arguments are still ongoing (and will always be around in some form).

2. Do you think new pop musicians have been in any way influenced by the avant garde artists, or do you think the 2 genres aren't related?

There's definitely been a connection, which has grown stronger over the last few decades and they definitely feed off of each other more and more, especially as some artists drift back and forth between the genres.  I covered this topic several years ago in an EMP lecture: http://www.furious.com/perfect/rockexp/index.html

3. In your selection process for the box set, how did you choose what to include and what not to include?

We wanted to include some of the giants ('gurus') of the genre but we also wanted to cover several decades and styles as well as some lesser known composers who deserved recognition for their individualized work.  We also didn't want to limit it only to America, especially as there were very important movements in this area in other countries going on.  Even though there were 3 CD's, we had material for a 4th CD or a follow-up volume planned too (maybe which will happen someday).

4. How have electronic music styles changed in the last 100 years?

It's definitely evolved but the full answer would be a book length essay.  What's most fascinating are the different strands and combinations that have come up, often in surprising and unexpected ways.  For instance, the hundreds of sub-genres that are lumped under 'techno' were pretty much unimaginable before krautrock pioneers like Cluster and Kraftwerk.

5. Did people want electronic music to happen, or did it just evolve by itself?

Several people willed it into existence (thanks especially to gadgeteers like Thermin, Moog and Buchla) and led the way for others, some of whom took very divergent paths.  As I mentioned in one of the OHM booklet essays, it all seemed to be a natural extension of the atomic age and the industrial age happening at the time.

6. Were there any unexpected discoveries made while making the box set?

It was amusing to hear about certain rivalries (both friendly and unfriendly) that arose between the German (WDR) and French (INA/GRM) electronic movements.  I also learned about composers like Hugh LeCaine and Joji Yuasa that I wasn't familiar with before but I thought that they were unique and significant enough to include there.

7. Who do you think are the 2 most influential musicians in this category?

The standard answer is 'Cage and Stockhausen' and while that's probably true, it's become kind of an over-used cliche that they're the pinnacle, usually cited as a stock answer.  La Monte Young should also be included in that elite group too though.

8. Why do you think people were suspicious of electronically produced sounds at first?

Any art form that's new and revolutionary always causes confusion, anger and suspicion- the same thing happened with jazz, rock and roll, rap, techno, punk, etc..

9. Where do you think electronic music is heading?

As the tools to participate become easier and cheaper to obtain, I think it has a rich and long future ahead of it.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Recent Faves- mid-April 2013 edition

Gotta admire Brad Paisley's wide-ranging spirit- his guest shots on his new Wheelhouse album are with Monty Python's Eric Idle and LL Cool J alongside Roger Miller and Charlie Daniels, bringing back fond memories of when Jacko would lasso in Vincent Price, Eddie Van Halen and Macca on Thriller. Also notable is BP's ongoing mission to bust up Southern stereotypes as surely as he's happy to make hash of barriers between genres.  As for the much-discussed "Accidental Racist," see LZ Granderson's savvy take on the controversy there- he's right that the song does suck but it's not because of the lyrics.

And speaking of racial barriers... I'm looking forward to 42, the Jackie Robinson bio-pic, especially after the great soundtrack album that just came out in conjunction with it, which is full of sweet country tunes, swinging jazz and howling country honky-tonk classics, basically showing you some of the building blocks of rock and roll. How could you not love a collection that includes Billie Holiday, Hank Williams, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Louis Jordan?  You can hear samples of some of it from the Watertower label website.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dead Destinations

I'm no Deadhead myself- the one time I saw them with Jerry was on the Dylan tour in July '87 at Giants Stadium and it was easily one of the worst concerts I've ever witnessed.  But I did see them w/o Mr. Garcia at Madison Square Garden in April 2009 and it was not only a huge improvement but also almost as transcendent as a 'Head would have hoped for.

So as a semi-fan/semi-agnostic, I was at least curious when I started reading David Fricke's Rolling Stone piece detailing his favorite Grateful Dead shows.  For some of the shows he details, I already knew about it, heard and enjoyed them on official releases or read about as 'legendary' shows, so I was at least curious.  The problem was that there weren't many links in the online version and only one embedded Soundcloud stream of one of the shows to hear the 20 concerts he detailed.  Music obsessive that I am, I wanted to track down as much as I could hear myself and thanks to the amazing archive that the band and its management has set up at the Internet Archives site, much of it is sitting out there, ready for you to hear it for free.  Most of the rest are also available to hear on Spotify too.

So for you 'Heads and general Dead curiosity seekers, I'd like to share all of the links that I found to the shows that Fricke details in his article.   I've just got started myself but I'm already loving it and can't wait to continue listening in the coming days and weeks and months... Some of the ones I've heard as faves are in bold below too.

Also see these official Dead releases (not at Archives or Spotify, sad to say)
  • Road Trips Vol 2.2
  • Three From the Vault
  • Europe '72 #5: Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark 4/16/72

Labels: ,

Monday, April 01, 2013

SXSW 2013- late wrap-up and addenda

With whirlwind blur of SXSW over two weeks over now, it's good to reflect on what happened, if only to remember it all- I saw about 66 shows this time (which is a record for me there).  Even then, there were a bunch of things I wished that I could have seen, like Pharcyde (see this video from their Austin show) and California X but there's only so much time and so many acts...

Still, I was fortunate enough to cover the festival for both the Wire magazine and Billboard this year (see this bit.ly bundle for the stories that I did for BB).  Even after the coverage that I did for both publications, which including a few dozen bands, there were still some others that I didn't have time, space or context to write up otherwise.  I did want to take a moment to note some of these other acts because they did make an impression on me and I hope that you'll want to hear more about them too, which you can do at all of the links below and see some of the videos of them that I shot.

Loved last year's Reservation  mixtape from this Michigan/Virginia rapper and her live show reminded me why- she's sassy, smart and quick-lipped (play the video above for some proof of that).  It's no wonder that Carson Daily not only made her the feature act for his showcase at SXSW but also went out of his way to offer her slobbering praise when introducing her and insisting that she will blow up big soon- most likely after she finishes her album for Universal I'd say.

Dropped in briefly to check out this Texas crew on my way to another show and was really glad that I did.  If I told you that they'd have fit in on Hee-Haw, I don't mean that as an insult.  They really do play funny... no, hilarious country music.  Come to think of it though, their humor is a little too salty for prime time TV but if that doesn't bother you, you'll surely enjoy the likes of "I Like Drinkin'," "I Deserve A Drink" and "(If You Don't Wanna) Love the Lord."

The second best rap act I saw at the festival was the king/queen of New Orleans bounce.  Even for the day show he did at the convention center, it was booty shaky time- literally, with a troop of female and male dancers shakin' their thang.  Not to mention the audience members he coaxed on stage to do the same.

As much as I was looking forward to seeing Killer Mike (whose R.A.P. Music album I enjoy more and more) and Myka 9 (whose Sovereign Soul album was unfairly overlooked last year) and curious to see what Kendrick Lamar would bring live, K.R.I.T. put on the best 'big name' rap show I saw at the fest.  Mike was great doing "Reagan" live (especially when he pointed out each lie in the Gipper's vocal sample about Iran-Contra) and Myka had moments of brilliance that he couldn't keep up momentum for and Lamar worked the crowd well but not as well or expertly as K.R.I.T. did, totally owning the show and the audience. 4eva N a Day indeed.

Say their name out loud and it's just like the dreaded yacht-rock Cali crew with Mr. Henley. But fear not, this is something totally different.  These Brits are not quite ready to storm the States or other locales outside of home yet but their psych/post-punk sound is definitely winning with some arresting guitar hooks that make you think that Brit-pop could make a comeback.

Great band name, isn't it?  This indie pop foursome was good enough to make me want to catch them when they did a subsequent NYC show after a British Embassy showcase they did at SXSW.  Especially impressive- their harmonies, their drummer (which is something you usually don't notice in this type of music) and the roster of labels they've recorded for: Kanine/ Too Pure/ Sexbeat/ Italian Beach Babes/ Sex Is Disgusting (not just the labels themselves but the names too).

I wondered after a while if this Atlanta indie pop band's Are You Falling In Love? was really as good as I remembered it in 2011.  It turns out that it sounded ever better and more energetic live, making me not only want to see 'em live again but hope that they record a follow up soon.

By now, most folkie/country bands that try to sound authentic just sound hokey instead.  And with their punky get-up's, you'd think these gals and guys (with a stand-up drummer and androgynous bassist) would be no different, but they are.  Maybe it's because they really are having fun at what they do which makes for good music, but their enthusiasm and good cheer is definitely infectious too, even for a former skeptic like me.

Though the Muscle Shoals boys were in town to play too and celebrating a recent doc, so was this other legendary backing band, though with less fan fare sad to say.  Still featuring Teenie Hodges (co-writer of many Al Green hits) plus his brothers and other family and friends, they brought Memphis soul to life again and then some in a joyous celebration, even with Teenie occasionally struggling with being onstage nowadays.

Siouxsie fans Savages were called 'the saviors of rock' and other nice hyped-up phrases even before SXSW ended but I thought that this Brooklyn crew flew the post-punk revival flag much prouder and better. Glad to see I wasn't the only one who noticed as they landed a deal not longer after the fest.

For whatever reason, on the first night of SXSW, there's been a nerdcore showcase for the last few years.  Not that I'm complaining, except that I missed the wonderful More Or Les (who you should see).  I did catch this NC kingpin though and was glad that I did.  He manages to stand out from the pack by being a little smarter and funnier than the rest.  Why won't he be consider for a Revenge of the Nerds sequel is beyond me.

If you're a world music or Latin music fan, you know this L.A. band but if you don't, you need to. It's not just that their records are exciting but their live shows are even better- we're talking real celebrations with dancing and crowd participation, as you see in the video above.

These youngsters have 'heart throb' written all over them but they also have the songs that you'd hope from a poppy rock band (or vice versa).  They did a purposefully low-key show for their convention center day gig but it suited the music just fine- a high powered outing would have trounced their adorable tunes.

Speaking of World music, how about some desert blues?  Like Tinariwen, they're part of the nomadic Tuareg tribe of the Sahara and also play hypnotic music though this band is a little more sparer.  Still, you get a good buzz from those repeating guitar figures.

The back lot of a Wendy's just across the highway was an appropriate backdrop for this crazed dance-pop/rave crew and a few dozen fans to go wild in near darkness.  As you see from the video, it's tough to capture/film not just the scene but also the great and zany fun that they generate with the crowd. But experiencing it up close was the most fun that I had with a crowd that was moshing all around me that I can remember.

It's true that they're another guitar/drum garage duo, not to mention a supposed brother/sister duo just like the White Stripes but there's something different about this Chi-town group.  Maybe it's because  Miss Alex White (picture on guitar and vocals above) has more than enough attitude for herself and her supposed sibling, Francis Scott Key White.

This Cali two piece (a trio with a bassist live) has a great sound and gorgeous tunes to go along with them and though I should stop using the term indie pop here, that's what they do and they do it well enough for me to stay after their show to buy a copy of their album (which you should do too, right here). It didn't hurt that they had an over-enthused friend/fan in front, touting them and directing people to purchase said album- good marketing there!

A keyboard/drum Austin duo with banks of synths and full of flourishes sounds like an art-rock nightmare but these guys play at rave-speed thankfully.  I even remember some of the people in the front pogoing right after they started- how many art rock shows do you see that happening at?


BONUS CUTS: In addition, a few other items worth adding that happened at SXSW.

Joe Boyd- the famous producer was in town to tout his Nick Drake tribute shows/film, plus a panel on Drake.  I got to ask him some questions related to his SXSW experience shortly after he arrived.

Q: What's the best band/artist you've seen yet?

JB: I've only been here for one day but I saw a great documentary about Arhoolie Records called This Ain't No Mouse Music with people like Flaco Jiminez and Nance Lipscomb.

Q: Who are you most excited to see?

JB: Prince and Buddy Miller. I'm a great admirer of both of them!

Q: What's the best party you've been to?

JB: I loved the NPR party with Nick Cave, Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah's and Cafe Tacuba.

Q: What's the best panel or keynote you've seen?

JB: I'm sorry that I missed two- Infamous Band Disputes and the Muscle Shoals panel. Of course, I'm looking forward to my own Nick Drake panel.

Q: What's the best gossip you've heard?

JB: I'm not the ideal responder- I'm an outsider now.

Q: Who have you met/hope to meet that you are most excited about?

JB: There's a young singer named Aoife O'Donovan who I'd like to include at a an upcoming Nick Drake tribute in New York (April 10, Joe's Pub).
(NOTE: This did in fact work out as she'll be performing there)

Q: Who/what do you think people will be buzzing about after SXSW 2012 is over?

JB: In his keynote, David Grohl was talking about going back to recording on analog, going back to the basics for a naturalistic approach. That's still a minority view but that might get some relevancy here. If people would leave here with more fervor about that, it would be great.

Chuck D & Bootsy

For any funk fan, this was a tough one to miss.  Chuck of course was very respectful and Bootsy had good perspective about the music biz, some of which you can peep in this video.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,