Friday, February 27, 2009

What I Heard This Morning: Swan Lake

Indie rock trio, Swan Lake, will be releasing their new album, Enemy Mine on March 24th.

As far as their featured three singles, "A Hand At Dusk," "Spanish Gold, 2044" and "Spider," they're all rooted in highly evocative non-traditional conveyance, meaning that you can hear their influences but they're all jumbled effectively enough that Swan Lake own their sound.

"Spanish Gold, 2044" is like Odysseus meets Space Oddity-Bowie, its lethargic sway leaning like a seesawed ship. "A Hand At Dusk" is a lovingly crafted piano tune that has moments of swelled ambience that sort of set you adrift till the song comes to an ethereally distant halt. "Spider" feels like something Lou Reed might've done if he'd been mainlining Joy Division or Jesus and Mary Chain, making it probably their most indie-conventional track. It still fails to disappoint.

"A Hand At Dusk"

"Spanish Gold, 2044"


Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

4.18.09: Let me repeat myself…

…I love record stores.

For years I told myself that any money gifted to me by any lucky Lotto number or bequeathed me by any long lost relative of which I had no knowledge; any large sum of expendable income I accrued in that fantastical, daydream-worthy way, would’ve gone into opening my own record store. I still dream about it: some urban-centric brick building with Xerox strewn flyers amassed at every available inch of wall space, overlapping torn, dog-eared promotional posters, rusted baskets bursting with dusty 45s and rows and rows of plastic sealed vinyl, just sitting there waiting to be tapped like a fraternity keg.

I’ve imagined myself standing in front of a counter, my backdrop a veritable Venetian-blind stack of vertically housed CDs and 7” records, engaged by mutually obsessed patrons and getting into conversations about their many purchases as I ka-ching away and hopefully earn their eternal loyalty.

Jello Biafra at Amoeba Records, Record Store Day, San Francisco, CA - 4.19.08

And, I’ve imagined myself providing some inspiration to future generations of musicians, kids who’ve found their own personal Jesus within the sleeve of some anonymous black slab that demanded attention once it received rotation. I’ve wanted to own the record store that earned a place in the formative development of a rock band; or just a refuge from a possibly misunderstood other reality, sanctuary for those that only relate to other music obsessives.

I’ve always envied those that have played that role, more so than the bands they’ve spawned.

But, as music continues to lose its tangibility and personality to “convenience” and filesharing disposability, the idea of owning an independent record store in this day and age is… sadly, kind of pointless.

Record Store Day at Pure Pop Records, Burlington, Vermont - 4.19.08

With online purchasing and downloading, the digital age has really taken a large chunk of business out of the physical world. A few years ago, I wasn’t opposed to the quick and easy exchange of music, as I thought it would lead to enhancing purchases by a new and modern league of music lover/consumer. But, it seems to have only diminished the music-buying experience, led to an avoidance of the culture and taken all the work and fun out of discovery. Technology, as has been the case time and time again, has cultivated a complacent and lazy music-buying public, impersonalized and detached from what was once integral.

I’m guilty myself. I constantly update my Amazon wishlist, though lately I’ve been making purchases through the record store vendors, thinking that may at least help keep these stores alive. Even then, the experience is instantaneous and cold. It’s evident that I don’t get out to the store as much as I should. Apparently, none of us do. As much of a stretch as it was to imagine ever OWNING a record store, now it seems a stretch to imagine them existing in the next five years. To think that in my lifetime, I may see an end to the record store…

…it’s a jagged pill to swallow, sideways.

That being said, keep April 18th open because that is the second annual Record Store Day.

All around the country and other parts of the world, independent record stores are celebrating their existence and their love of music on that day so as to remind us what it means to be a music fan. The fact that we go out of our way to find the B-sides, the rough cuts, the imports, the oddities and rarities; the fact that we speak a language so uniquely defined by our passion; the fact that we live for a particular lyric, or intensely debate the importance of an album, or the influence of a band; the fact that we get excited about that one great haul, or find… We owe our love, our obsession and our membership into this fascinating and exclusive club to our independent record stores. We can’t allow these stores to whither away, victims of a bad economic climate and a devotion to 7-11/McDonald’s style technological convenience.

So, April 18th, before and after. Let’s try and stay indie.

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Patton Scores…Again

Following the score he completed and released for Derrick Scocchera’s short film, A Perfect Place, alt-composer Mike Patton has decided to apply his talents to something a little more Hollywood.

Crank 2: High Voltage has been given the Patton treatment. Both the movie and Patton’s score will be released on April 17th.

Being the anti-mainstream presence that he’s been for the last twenty years, something as big-budget as a Crank sequel seems somewhat of a strange place for Patton to apply his vision. Yes, he did lend his voice for I Am Legend and a slew of videogames, so he’s definitely been moving toward more accessible creative outlets.

Film is obviously an industry he wants to tap into from a compositional and musical standpoint. I’m sure he looks at it as work, just another project to sink himself into, prolific workaholism that won’t necessarily reside in his familiar environment of obscurity. Plus, it could be good exposure for Ipecac. Economically speaking, any tactics to keep an independent label running in the current marketplace are encouraged, especially amidst a climate that killed Touch & Go and led to layoffs at Alternative Tentacles. Maybe a little mainstream entanglement has become necessary.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, February 23, 2009

Another EP: Purpleface…

Throw Me The Statue
Purpleface EP
Secretly Canadian
Released: 2.17.09

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Glad to see the EP isn’t dead.

As minimal as it is, the EP really is an interesting format: Easy to produce, affordable and typically packed with exclusive non-LP goodies. And, in the pre-download days, the 7,” the single and the EP were a cheap way to get some exposure to music, a real alternative to breaking the bank on a potential bad purchase. Now, it seems like they’re just a way to appease the music-buying masses.

Having already heard Bon Iver’s anticipated Blood Bank EP, following his favorably received For Emma, Forever Ago, the need to quickly sate fan hunger seems immediate in these times of instant access and effortless gratification. Seattle band, Throw Me The Statue, also coming off a successful 2008 release, Moonbeams, is following suit.

Their new EP, Purpleface, features three new songs and a revised Moonbeams track, “Written In Heart Signs, Faintly.”

Video for “Lolita” from 2008’s Moonbeams

Being a mostly romanticized or softly realized collection, Purpleface is engaging from start to finish, a lounging pop soundscape coloring frontman Scott Reitherman’s faraway delivery. First track “That’s How You Win” couples off-time piano with whirling electric howls, fusing a brand of plaid-pattern brandy snifter lounge with indie pop-ology. “Honeybee,” its percussionist sounding about five states away from the rest of the band, couples folk guitar with light piano strokes, bringing together a seeming randomness between the instruments that makes sense.

“Ship,” the album’s highpoint feels like an updated version of Paul McCartney’s “Let ‘Em In” at first only to burst into intricate lo-fi guitar ballet and horn play. Purpleface’s subtlety seems its common goal, and Reitherman does a good job at maintaining subtlety while stretching his instrumentation into something substantial.

Letters From A Tapehead

Friday, February 20, 2009

Touch & Go Bye-Bye

So, the economy has killed an indie giant: Touch & Go Records has minimized its presence in the marketplace, sticking to its back-catalogue for future revenue and cutting its distribution ties with indie labels Merge, Drag City, Kill Rock Stars, Flameshovel and Jade Tree among others.

Any music aficionado will be able to recognize what a huge blow this is to the independent music scene, especially in correlation with the one Touch & Go housed, nurtured and inspired:

Big Black, Girls Against Boys, Shellac, The Jesus Lizard, Pinback, TV On The Radio…there are a lot of names tied to this label.

The Jesus Lizard: “Monkey Trick”

Not to pimp out another music reviews source, knowing fully well that I lack the resources, money and time to cover what they do, but Pitchfork put together a really good and comprehensive list of Touch & Go must-haves:

Twenty-five essential Touch and Go albums

In the meantime, as the economic climate will hopefully begin to prosper, (because really, how much fucking further can it sink?), let’s hope Touch & Go founder Corey Rusk can maybe return the label to its former glory, offering esoteric and subversive bands a format to grow and offering fans a tried and true alternative to the majors. I guess we can find some comfort in the fact that it’s still in operation. So long as that’s the case, I guess there’s still hope.

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ciccone Youth: Macbeth

Ciccone Youth (taking their name from Madonna) was a short-lived experimental side-project by Sonic Youth and Mike Watt. The Whitey Album, their one and only LP, was reissued by Geffen in 2006.

The Whitey Album, on the surface, isn't particularly good, (more interesting than anything else). The track "Macbeth," however, an admittedly drawn-out drum-n-bass instrumental, always brings me back to the album. The whole track is basically a platform for Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo to violently screech sonic trenches through the air, but the sections of harmonic string play really soften the brutality, making it kind of beautiful.

My mother heard this song on a mixtape I'd made and referred to it as "relentless." She wasn't completely wrong.

Watch more Yahoo! Music videos on AOL Video

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Home Video Will Be OK

Home Video
It Will Be OK EP
Released: 1.13.09

Rating: 7.25 out of 10

Very quick to write-off electronic music, simply because it seems too easy, I find myself appreciating it more and more, especially when it’s married to actual instrumentation. Preprogramming sounds preprogrammed: lifeless and calculated. There’s something to be said for Industrial strength repetition, chugga-chugga pumped up sonic whirlpools of found, chaotic sound, loud and proud…I get it, but I don’t always buy it. How many times can Kraftwerk be referenced? How often do you want to reconsider Kid A’s effect on the new millennium? Devo? New Order? Massive Attack? Speaking In Tongues-era Talking Heads? Synth Pop has been done. Electronica, New Wave, Trip-Hop…it’s all been done. But, technology being technology, or upgrading being upgrading, Electronica is here to stay. So, we accept it and hope it’s not borne from the hands of some basement dwelling Pro Tools hack.

Brooklyn trio Home Video’s latest EP, It Will Be OK, has no pretense in terms of the era from whence it came to be. Radiohead references? Yes, they are very easy to make. First track, “I Can Make You Feel It,” seems to strive for a pulsating Synth Pop Thom Yorke derivation. But, that winds up not being that important. In spite of however many records or bands to which they owe their sound, Home Video offers an engaging and warm four-song EP, actual blood coursing through its copper wires. It brims with passion.

Video for “I Can Make You Feel It”

The melodies are sound, the emotional territory is well charted, but the EP doesn’t deviate in terms of tempo or nuance. Not to say that Home Video wrote the same song four times, but they don’t seem to want to experiment, making It Will Be OK more of a formulaic exercise than an expressive one. Unfortunate, because they do create a lot with very little, their stark and light flurries of electricity bounding in the air amidst lush keyboards.

It Will Be OK was self-released and is available online for free download.

Download It Will Be OK

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tahiti Boy and the Palmtree Family: That Song (feat. Tunde Adebimpe)

Maybe you're tired of 70s pop throwbacks: those fluted little ditties with falsettos blazing across happy-go-lucky funk rhythms. If you are, you may still like "That Song," latest single from Parisian collective Tahiti Boy and the Palmtree Family.

With TV On The Radio's Tunde Adebimpe aiding in vocal duty, Tahiti Boy (David Sztanke) and crew make use of the 70s pop template, but wind up with more of an introspective lounge sound, instruments welling up like orchestral tears. "That Song" can be found on their upcoming EP, 1973. Release date pending.

Image courtesy of Terrorbird Media

Tahiti Boy and the Palmtree Family - "That Song" featuring Tunde Adebimpe

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, February 12, 2009

No Ripcord: Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys
Paul’s Boutique — 20th Anniversary Edition
Originally released: 7.25.89
Re-mastered and re-released: 1.27.09

No Ripcord review

Letters From A Tapehead

Friday, February 06, 2009

Sid & Nancy Revisited…

Punk rock historian Alan G. Parker has basically devoted his life to figuring out whether or not Sex Pistol bassist and punk icon Sid Vicious really killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, having promised Sid’s mother, Anne Beverley, (before she also passed away due to an overdose in 1996), that he would clear her son’s name.

His new documentary, Who Killed Nancy?, is a new take on the mystery surrounding Spungen’s death and questions Sid’s involvement. I’m hoping it’s a more conclusive and better-researched analysis than Nick Broomfield’s documentary, Kurt & Courtney, which never really presented any substantial evidence to support Broomfield’s claim that Courtney Love had a hand in Kurt Cobain’s “murder.” But, having spent decades researching and analyzing, it’s a safe bet that Parker will have something for all the conspiracy theorists and Pistols fans to chew on.

As of today, the documentary's traveling the U.K. circuit. I haven't found any information regarding U.S. release.

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Lux Interior (1946-2009)

Psychobilly hero and Cramps frontman Lux Interior passed on at the age of 62.

A B-rated monster of a schtick to go along with his intense showmanship, Lux Interior (Eric Lee Purkhiser) and his wife, Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace) formed The Cramps in 1976, just in time for punk rock’s emergence into CBGB mania. Boasting more of a rockabilly-surf-infused and sexy crawl, The Cramps stuck out as Bela Lugosi's variation on Johnny Cash and Link Wray.

If you’ve never heard Songs The Lord Taught Us or Psychedelic Jungle, it would be behoove you to find them, throw down the money and listen. Or, if you want a decent overview of early Cramps, the compilation Bad Music For Bad People is worthwhile.

The Cramps perform “Human Fly” - 9.25.93

In the song “Garbage Man,” Interior sums himself up perfectly:

"...Yeah it's just what you need when you're down in the dumps
One half hillbilly and one half punk
Big long legs and one big mouth
The hottest thing from the north to come out of the south
Do you understand?
Do you understand?..."

We do and we’re thankful. Rest In Peace, Lux.

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Buried In A Good Mix Tape #3: Best Of 2008...

Another mix inspired.

I wound up pulling together a two-disc compilation of my favorite songs of 2008. Some of the songs I used were from albums that didn’t make it to the Best Of list, results of decent songs winding up on lackluster or “so so” albums. I was happy with how it turned out.

Disc 1 —

French Miami - God Damn Best (French Miami)
WHY? - Good Friday (Alopecia)
Wire - Circumspect (Object 47)
Eagles Of Death Metal - High Voltage (Heart On)
These Are Powers - Chipping Ice (Taro Tarot EP)
Ten Kens - Downcome Home (Ten Kens)
Carlos y Gaby - Hot Heavy Heat (A Chase Theme) (La Voz Sabia De Los Cosmos)
Bauhaus - Endless Summer Of The Damned (Go Away White)
Dub Trio - Regression Line (Another Sound Is Dying)
The Gutter Twins - Seven Stories Underground (Saturnalia)
Man Man - Poor Jackie (Rabbit Habits)
Mike Patton - A Dream Of Roses (A Perfect Place)
Beck - Replica (Modern Guilt)
Panther - Glamorous War (14kt God)
Marnie Stern - The Crippled Jazzer (This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - We Call Upon The Author (Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!)
Brian Wilson - Live Let Live - That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise) Medley (The Lucky Old Sun)
TV On The Radio - DLZ (Dear Science)
Aether - Variance (Artifacts)
The Roots - Rising Up (featuring Wale & Chrisette Michele) (Rising Down)

Disc 2 —

Deerhoof - Buck And Judy (Offend Maggie)
Boris - Buzz-In (Smile)
The Black Angels - Science Killer (Directions To See A Ghost)
Sic Alps - Sing Song Waitress (U.S. EZ)
Slim Cessna's Auto Club - All About The Bullfrog In Three Verses (Cipher)
Sigur Rós - Góðan Daginn (Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust)
Praveen & Benoît - Death As A Man (Song Spun Simla)
Opeth - The Lotus Eater (Watershed)
Grails - Immediate Mate (Doomsdayer's Holiday)
The Black Keys - I Got Mine (Attack & Release)
Bad Dudes - Eat Drugs (Eat Drugs)
Grampall Jookabox The Girl Ain’t Preggers (Rill Bruh EP)
Foals - The French Open (Antidotes)
Fucked Up - Twice Born (The Chemistry Of Common Life)
Between The Pine - Enjoy Yourself (Friends, Foes, Kith and Kin)
David Byrne & Brian Eno - Strange Overtones (Everything That Happens Will Happen Today)
Like A Fox - Just A Light Hit (Where’s My Golden Arm?)
Triclops! - Lovesong For The Botfly (Out Of Africa)

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, February 02, 2009

Posthumous FZ: Project Object at the Sellersville Theater - 1.31.09

Igor's Egg
Sellersville Theater
Sellersville, PA

In my head, there’ve been Zappa borne riffs and words cycling throughout the last couple days in a convoluted gathering that occasionally reveals a discernible song part or two. It’s been chaos basically: the type of loud, obnoxious cerebral turmoil that leaves one staring at a 2 o’clock ceiling, waiting for silence or calm to envelope the commotion. In an effort to quiet the mess, I actually whipped out my copy of Joe’s Garage, just to play some of what I’d heard Saturday night and put the internal noise jam to rest.

It kind of worked. But, now that I’m writing this, the music has returned and remains disorganized.

Project/Object, a collective of Zappa alumni, played to a sold-out crowd at the Sellersville Theater this past Saturday. Of the originals, Project Object features guitarist/singer Ike Willis, percussionist Ed Mann and original Mother Of Invention, 77 year-old keyboardist Don Preston. Project/Object founder, guitarist/singer André Cholmondeley, played beside Willis and exuded more than a genius-level degree of Zappa’s music, like he’d listened to little else throughout his years.

When we got to the theater (my dad and brother and I), it was full to bursting with 70s artifacts: older men buried under long, greying hair, Zappa mustaches flexibly resting on a million and one variations of a single t-shirt, bespectacled devotees of the unique genre. A lot of these guys had probably seen Frank in the flesh and made my love of his music seem languid. My brother had made a comment after the show about feeling like a poseur around the breed of ultra-fan that Project/Object had brought to the theater. It was easy to agree.

The long line at the bar didn’t sell me on the beertender’s wares, so Dad and I decided to check out our seats. My brother, opting for beer, stayed behind.

We really didn’t have any idea as to what we would be seeing. Being that Dweezil Zappa has been, for the last couple years, on the road with his Zappa Plays Zappa tour, Project/Object almost seemed to inspire competition. The ticket price was definitely much less obnoxious than Dweezil’s, though I’m sure his more sophisticated and professional set-up warrants a high cost. We looked to be seeing the garage band version, a more paired down, fan-based interpretation of Frank. Apparently, Frank’s widow, Gail, has been notoriously opposed to Project/Object, having had a hand in canceling past shows. Luckily, she had no influence in Sellersville.

Promotional video for The Ultimate Tuh by Igor’s Egg

The opening band was a Philadelphia progressive/jam act dubbed, Igor’s Egg. Igor’s Egg is basically what happens when Duane Allman emulates Dave Matthews. To be fair, they were better than that, but their lean toward Dead-ish improv jamming had “festival circuit” appeal, the type of sound that owes itself to something that tries to be arty and resonates with Phish fans.

Crowd response was really good, though. Rhythmically huge, the bassist simply known as “Dirk” took the task of crowd engagement and prominently figured into Igor’s Egg’s brand of math jamming. They earned a purchase from my dad, (their CD The Ultimate Tuh), who found “Dirk” after their set and informed him that $10 had found its way into his band’s pocket. “Dirk” was appreciative.

Project Object performs “Andy” at the World Café — Philadelphia, PA, 11.23.08

More people began to arrive, just before the Project/Object began to assemble onstage. Commenting on the notable absence of women fans (maybe one woman to every fifteen men was in attendance… geekery truly is a man’s sport), a random conversation was sparked by a latecomer who started telling us that female Zappa fans are typically insane. Interestingly, his companion that night was an attractive female, who stayed pretty reserved throughout the performance. I wonder if she knew that she was batshit crazy?

Ike Willis, whose claim to fame is being “Joe” in Joe’s Garage, (my first and most meaningful exposure to Zappa’s music), is a mammoth of a man that worked his guitar with second-nature dexterity. His sound felt as large as he was, booming out of his guitar with metallic severity. Cholmondeley, as charismatic as Willis, had a more surgical approach, fine details seeming to be his forte. Mann, having carried the longest tenure as a Mother, was surrounded with an array of shiny, vibratory objects. A blazing smile plastered to his face, he would prance about the stage like it was still the good ol’ days. Don Preston was stationed stage right, sitting behind a large synthesizer set-up, seeming regal amongst them all.

For material, they went obscure. Aside from the notable inclusion of “Trouble Every Day,” “Florentine Pogen,” and “Andy,” they selected some great material out of Frank’s canon that wasn’t necessarily common, for lack of a better term.

Reprising his role as “Joe,” Willis pulled from the second and third volumes of Joe’s Garage (“Keep It Greasy,” “Outside Now,” and “Packard Goose), which I was in heaven listening to. The other personal highpoint was hearing the guys jam out to Sheik Yerbouti’s “City Of Tiny Lights,” which inspired an extended rock improv.

Don Preston brandished the pipes for a rendition of “Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder,” from the Mothers’ first album, Freak Out! and also played an unfamiliar instrumental duet with Mann. Without even looking at each other, they were very in tune and completely trusting.

Most impressive amongst the band’s youth was the drummer, Eric Slick, who managed to sing a rendition of “Tryin’ To Grow A Chin” while beating the fuck out of his set. Out of anyone on stage that didn’t already have star power, Slick stole the show, throwing down colossal barrages of drum rolled amazement. He might’ve inspired the biggest reaction from the audience by the time the show was over.

“Peaches En Regalia” wound up the encore, and then it was night night.

Having heard recorded Zappa Plays Zappa material, Dweezil’s crew definitely brings out the magic, splendor and the scale of live Frank Zappa. It’s true to its source material and hangs on every note in a theatrical setting. Project/Object, though in tune to Zappa’s music, is freer with how they explore it. As arguments go, I don’t think it really matters who does it better, who’s making money off what, whose exploiting whom…blahblahblah. When it comes down to it, as André closed out the evening by mentioning, this is all Frank’s music. No one’s denying the genius.

Letters From A Tapehead

Gritty Death Mask...

Ben Parrish of Kill Rock Stars made the following statement: Gritty should join Taiwan Housing Project ✌️ — benjamin parrish (@mrbe...