Tuesday, June 09, 2015

LINER NOTES: Beach


 



Beach playlist.

This one-off night was done in conjunction with the 92nd St Y's Spring Fling! open house, which was a night of free events. The Y staff generously asked us to participate, and suggested the 'beach' theme. We were surprised we hadn't visited this theme before. Some of the music styles were covered in a previous 'spy' theme, but we hadn't tackled this whole-hog. Needless to say, there was an abundance of options.

The structure of the session was a bit different, because we had two one-hour sessions that were meant to be samplers for new participants. We decided to loosen up the proceedings and just performed a series of five to seven-minute poses. The music reflected this approach with an emphasis on short, punchy songs with a clear connection to the theme. In other words, Neil Young's On the Beach didn't make the cut. Next time, folks!

Admittedly, much of the soundtrack was pulled from my high school days when I absorbed anything with fast guitars. Hence, Dick Dale and the Pulp Fiction-related cuts. Full disclosure: the Americanas were high school-era buddies. Our bands played shows together. That said, I still stand by the statement that the band could easily go head-to-head against vets two or three times their age. One of the Takeshi Terauchi cuts ("On the Beach") used this evening is not on either YouTube or Spotify, so you'll have to do some independent digging. My favorite deep cut was the nod to Nate's roots, Euclid Beach Band's "There's No Surf in Cleveland." The promo clip in the YouTube playlist seals the deal.

Thanks again to Allison and the whole gang at the Y for inviting us.

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LINER NOTES: Blockbuster






Blockbuster playlist

We've visited the film soundtrack theme before, so it's important for us to find new ways to revisit this idea. Nate brought the word, "blockbuster," to the table, and that really shaped the evening. In the modern era of cinema, summer films are synonymous with 'blockbuster' or big box office smashes. Hence, we chose songs from summer films.

The framework was helpful because automatically a number of award-winning films (which, these days, tend to be released later in the year) were excluded. What remained were comparatively airy films, like Despicable Me, Superbad, and Guardians of the Galaxy. It helps that soundtracks in the modern era have become respectable commercial mixtapes, so mega-movies can reintroduce slick cuts like the Bar-Kays's "Too Hot to Stop" or the AM-nugget by Redbone, "Come and Get Your Love." Despicable Me and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World were two notable exceptions in that the films featured original soundtracks written primarily by Pharrell and Nigel Godrich, respectively. That said, these artist's pop background shines throughout the score work as they both wrote punchy, memorable songs that captured the mood of their respective films.

We took a broad approach to 'blockbuster,' allowing plenty of art house and, frankly, more obscure film soundtracks enter the mix. Buio Omega is a cult horror classic, but hardly mainstream like Anchorman. That said, we tried to include notable music moments from recognizable art house films, like the seemingly custom-written "Mao Mao" from La Chinoise, or Mulatu Astatke's hypnotic "Yègellé Tezeta" which repeats over the driving sequences in Broken Flowers.

Special consideration goes to our model, Rose, who has been incredibly inventive in her choice of costumes. For this night, she went for the Risky Business look, which was simple, instantly recognizable, and fun to draw from.

Rest assured, the well has not been tapped yet! We'll revisit soundtracks again soon.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Still Wild After All These Years



Saw Charles Lloyd last night at the Met. A few thoughts:

  • I first saw him fifteenish years ago. Just Billy Higgins and him in a tiny back office of a shopping mall in Baldwin Hills. One of the most breathtaking music experiences of my life. Back then, sat in a folding chair inches from Higgins's feet. This time, sat in a folding chair about 100 feet away with a shit sight line. Still sounds dope as all hell.
  • It takes an egoless man to roll up with a band of smoking players and allow them the soloing spotlights. Cymbalom player Miklós Lukács absolutely Crushed it. Jason Moran had a number of funky and stellar moments. Sokratis Sinopoulos channeled Lloyd's ethereal sensibilities perfectly. And Eric Harland is a beast of an accompanist. 
  • The band consists of Lloyd 'vets,' but its performance felt like a series of floating spotlights. The first half of the night's material had a cohesive texture with no one personality really dominating; the performance felt in service of the songwriting. The back half switched to more conventional rhythms and modes, which offered space for individual players to leap to life. The night felt like an old school music revue with the material serving as a foundation for individuals to show and prove.
  • New York crowds continue to un-impress. At least a third of the crowd gave a polite O at the end of the main course, then promptly bounced. Wasn't even five minutes before the group sat back down to play an encore, yet folks were still walking out.
  • And, yes, he closed with "Sombrero Sam." Aren't you tired of that joint, Chuck? Thank goodness he continues to abstract it further and further. It's such an oddly, funky mutant now.
Brother Charles' new record Wild Man Dance is out now.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Ownerz


Primo said that we should just lock it all down
See the bigger picture, so we can profit all around
I regularly hear the comment, "I need to have that song" (no humblebrag, RIP Harris).

My response is to share setlists. I have used a few methods: a list with purchase links, a YouTube playlist, a Spotify playlist, etc. The assumption is that the listener will use the information to purchase a physical or digital copy on their own.

Since I started posting the Spotify playlists, I realized that listeners are more than likely streaming the song or songs in question. And the vast majority are probably content. In this sense, 'having' a song is really just another way of saying, 'listening and checking off the list.' Access to consumption has become enough.

I know there's nothing revolutionary about this observation, but I mention it mostly because I occasionally feel it's not even worth mentioning a purchase link (unless there are no mainstream streaming options). Which seems irresponsible, because a number of musicians clearly value the purchase revenue (whether it makes any real business sense or not). It's an odd time where the perceived needs of the audience are being met in considerable disproportion to the needs of the artist.

I'll continue to push purchasing music from the artist, or at the very least from the artist's label, but fuck if this doesn't feel like swimming upstream.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

LINER NOTES: NO ID




NO ID playlist.



The good homies Nate, Francis and Emily, as well as Saul (whom I may have met back in the day through the museum world -- but nevertheless a good dude!) put together the
Governing Body exhibition at Temporary Agency. 'twas a great show -- hope you caught it. They wrapped with a doodle party. I sent the jams, Nate made it happen. Here's the scoop:

One of the undercurrents that caught my eye between the four artists's works was the idea of an ambiguous identity. One of my favorite angles about music is musicians working undercover. Whether it's a musician or producer working anonymously or under an alias, I'm generally fascinated. Creating honest art requires requires access to your ego, so when artists either distort or obfuscate the ego, the act creates both discomfort and fascination in me.

We opened and closed the set with a literal take on this idea -- the masked musician. Numerous artists today use masks or costumes to perform their identity. As much as everyone would have loved a night full of Slipknot, I bounced around genres and history to get a thorough sample.

Los Straitjackets are a high school/Los Angeles-era fave, and I had to include "Tempest" from my favorite Lauren Ambrose feature, Psycho Beach Party. I mean, look at this face.


How did she not become the late '90s Gidget? Travesty.

KISS are massively influential in this lane. Plus, Nate was a Stan. Not sure if "Strutter" was his jam. Forgot to ask. Fast forward to today and MF Doom has elevated the mask game by fully embracing the personality of said article. We all know what SBTRKT, FlyLo and THEESatisfaction look like, but their forays into masks and headdresses have been memorable. Kanye and Kells have their own history with masks, so I had to include the over-the-top "To The World."

Pseudonyms and alter egos are the logical next step. Whether the idea is singular and focused, like eternally old cool guy Leon Redbone, or mass-replicable, like Kool Keith's myriad identities, the results are often entertaining. Shock G is a massively underrated musician who is possibly overshadowed by his own creation Humpty Hump. Bowie is king of the chameleons, so, uh, duh. I'm unsure if "Betty and Dupree" and "Andrea Davis" were legal side-steps or simply lame alternatives to "Etta James and Harvey Fuqua" and "Minnie Riperton," but the possibly contractually-motivated pseudonym deserves its own theme.

The forgotten or previously-unpopular musician has become a contemporary genre of sorts. With reissues and forgotten-then-but-love-em-now documentaries being all the rage these days, it would have been easy to fill the entire night with the Light in the Attic catalog. I picked just a handful. I still regard Rodriguez's story separately from his music, but he has some gems that get occasional spin, so I went with his debut single, which quickly disappeared at the time of its release in 1967. Donnie and Joe Emerson's rural home studio is another example of a remarkable history that somewhat overshadows the music, but the brothers had some smoooooth ballads, like "Baby." If you can get past the 'net hype of Lewis, you'll also find the occasional nugget. He's like a less cerebral Eno.

More interesting are the genuinely unknowable folks, like Hezie Johnson and Jandek. Johnson has two songs to his name, the afore-spun "Wedding Bells..." and equally bizarre "Muddy Mississippi River," but these gems are staples of truly underground found art. Considering Jandek's three-decade-plus run, you'd think there would be some glint of information. Not that it would bring much clarity to his numerous indescribably releases. Which is perhaps the best part of their music: they represent rare instances where you can throw out context (and your reliance on marketing schlock) while listening to their songs.

A less amusing marketing trend is the 'mystery identity' musician. Along with the 'surprise' release album (regardless of one's feelings on this strategy, we can all agree Michael Cera's album does not belong in a list alongside Beyoncé and Magna Carta...), it's still a marketing approach meant to instill a consumer's willingness to consume the object. Whether I know that Artist A is a smalltown girl living in a material world, or Artist Who? is an un-Google-able entity with this. sick. beat. is not entirely different to me. In either case, I still have to read the same press release copy. I chose a handful of mystery artists who have risen above the fray. Burial and Zomby seem to be genuine cases of artists desiring privacy, which I'll gladly respect in exchange for some gorgeous music. Hype Williams is amusing mostly for straight jacking the iconic '00s video director's name. I'm happy to ignore the calculation behind Jai Paul because I still bump "BTSTU" on the regular. And Spark Master Tape makes the odd music I wish Jay Electronica had been making all this while.

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See y'all on the 'flo.

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