03.13.2012

FROM THE VAULT: Kyp Malone – Rain Machine

Kyp Malone of the independent rock band, TV on the Radio, worked on a project that was unexpected and released this as his solo album, Rain Machine, in 2009. Malone uses elements from the musical style of TV on the Radio, and incorporates his own ideas and thoughts much more in depth on his solo effort. He explores many of the sounds and themes that were found on releases of his previous projects. Malone played almost every instrument on this record, making it an interesting listen to what he wants to convey in his music. This record is different from any of his previous efforts in that it infuses acoustic sounds into the music rather than relying heavily on electric guitars.

Rain Machine – Smiling black face

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03.13.2012

From the Neumann Collection: Elvin Jones and Richard Davis, Heavy Sounds

The James and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection is the largest privately owned collection of jazz materials in the United States, and possibly the world. James Neumann, proprietor of the collection and an Oberlin Alumnus, decided last year to donate all of the materials to Oberlin. So far, the school has received about 45,000 vinyl LPs along with thousands of jazz periodicals and collectibles, which does not event amount to half of the entire collection. The recordings will not be available for students for some time, which is why WOBC has decided to give followers a regular taste of the collection’s rare gems. Disclaimer: Information and music posted are sourced from WOBC copies of albums also included in the Neumann Collection.

This week’s dig from the sea of Neuman’s jazz wax is Elvin Jones and Richard Davis’ Heavy Sounds, recorded and released in 1967 on the legendary Impulse! Records. Jones, who made his name as the drummer in John Coltrane’s Quartet of the mid- to late-fifties, and bassist Davis, who recorded with names as diverse as Eric Dolphy and Bruce Springsteen, are in top form on this exemplary hard-bop session. Jones and Davis are joined by tenor saxophonist Frank Foster and pianist Billy Greene on most of the tracks.

Overall, this record swings hard and gets weird just at the right moments. You can hear serious avant-garde intentions in the playing of Jones and Davis, but their music is still deeply rooted in jazz and blues traditions.

Elvin Jones and Richard Davis: “Summertime”

The record begins with a mid-tempo latin-swing rendition of Foster’s “Raunchy Rita”. This 11-minute, blues-drenched jam immediately confirms the album’s title; Jones’ groove layers dark rhythmic textures over Davis’ low-rounded bass tone, providing a heavy background for Foster to improvise with serious force. But perhaps the heaviest moments for this record come three tracks later on a 12-minute bass-drums duo version of “Summertime”, on which Jones takes an intense, pitch-oriented drum solo. Davis colors the track with exceptional bowing and subharmonic techniques, making for a highly unusual and improvisational journey through the classic Gershwin tune. Other highlights include Jones’ delta-blues style guitar playing on “Elvin’s Guitar Blues” (his first and only recorded performance on the instrument), and Foster’s heartbreaking lyricism on the Van Heusen ballad “Here’s That Rainy Day”, a welcome relief from the weight of the preceding tracks.

-Adam Hirsch

03.10.2012

FROM THE VAULT: Fantastic Plastic Machine – beautiful

the most beautiful.

Fantastic Plastic Machine – Black Dada

Fantastic Plastic Machine – LOVE is Psychedelic

Tomoyuki Tanaka, better known by his stage name FANTASTIC PLASTIC MACHINE (or FPM) was once a prominent electronic music artist in the late nineties, piggy-backing off the novelty music fad known as Shibuya-kei. Created singlehandedly by Pizzicato Five, Shibuya-kei was an ironic form of pop taking cues from swinging London, Burt Bacharach, Serge Gainsbourg, and every producer driven act in sixties Europe. It died almost as quickly as it appeared.

FPM chugged along, churning out two successful shibuya-kei style albums, his self-titled debut and Luxury, a sort of bizarre concept album about commercialism. Soon he shifted from quirky, retro-pop artist into super-DJ-mega-club-house-producer. beautiful. (period included!) released in 2001, vividly represents this change.

A sort of mish-mash of 70s pop and club-soul, beautiful. is a weirdly hyper-produced album. Absurd orchestral arrangements over a battery of cut-up samples, insane lyrics that are entirely non-sequitirs, thumping club beats, grating midi strings, and porn grooves dominate. Beginning with a weird vocal sample that intones, “I, AM BEAUTIFUL”, the album opener, beautiful days, sets the tone: a summery, up-tempo club song with cheesy strings played on a keyboard. A deep voiced man and woman sing about memories, childhood and other such nonsense. This continues consistently until they recite the word BEAUTIFUL ad nauseum. It’s so annoying that it becomes stunning.
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03.09.2012

FROM THE VAULT: Husker Du – Zen Arcade

The tale is of a young man coming of age and facing, for the first time, the harsh circumstances surrounding his life.  Feeling helpless to positively affect his abusive home life he resolves to run away, abandoning the emotional wreckage of his past in favor of a new life.   On his own he quickly discovers that the outside world is not the warm and welcoming environment his youthful naivete had foreseen, but rather a cold and indifferent urban wasteland filled with specious comforts and perfidious companions.  Far from achieving a paragon of success he realizes that indecision and insecurity are inextricable components of the human experience.  Unable to reconcile his past, and struggling with growing regrets, his optimism is replaced with cynicism.  This situation is further exacerbated by the drug induced death of his girlfriend.  Then, after reaching the epitome of self-deprecating despondence, our main character awakens.  His harrowing journey has been nothing more than a dream and he is left to contemplate the challenges of being a contributing and loving individual in a detached and hostile world.

This story reads like a post-modern novel exploring the growing alienated isolationism and the burden of optimism individuals face when attempting to navigate a path of goodness through the mechanics of a super-industrialized and thoughtlessly consumptive society.  That this is the plot of a concept album titled “Zen Arcade” by the band Husker Du may not appear particularly striking, but noting that it is the focus of a double album by a band with roots deeply embedded in the early 80′s hardcore punk counterculture is practically stupefying.   Hardcore, that bastion of youthful moral superiority, 50 second long songs, and unabashed musical inability, had never seen anything so ambitious.  At the time of its release Zen Arcade was a breath of fresh air for a scene that had, in the name of nonconformity, developed a rigid and dogmatic doctrine governing the acceptable behaviors, appearances, and expressions of its participants.

In 1983 Husker Du, a hardcore band from the twin cities, began to explore melody while simultaneously experiencing a constantly expanding fan base.  The band had just released their first record for Black Flag’s notorious label SST when they returned to California to lay out two dozen or so tracks for their most inspired and melodic release to date. Zen Arcade was recorded and mixed in a mere 85 hours with all but two of the recordings being first takes.  The idea that a punk band could dare anything so indulgent as a double album concept record so impressed labelmates The Minutemen that Mike Watt and D. Boon furiously doubled the material they had prepared for their forthcoming album “Double Nickels on the Dime”.

Husker Du – Something I Learned Today


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03.07.2012

Retrospective: “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”

“You Keep Me Hangin On,” written by legendary Motown production and songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland, was originally recorded by The Supremes in 1966. Since then it has been become one of the most often covered songs in the Supremes’ catalog.

After running across the 1969 Vanilla Fudge single in the vault I was inspired to check out some of the numerous re-recordings of the song. As you can see, few live up to the high bar set by the Supremes’ version.

The Supremes – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1966)

The Vanilla Fudge – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1967)

Rod Stewart – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1977)  // cool vid

Ken Boothe – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1983)

Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1987)

Reba McEntire – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1996)

Tom Jones – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (BBGermany Remix 2008)  // sick remix

Glee – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (2010)  // horse vid, chill

- Will Floyd

02.25.2012

Album Review: Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral

Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral

Mark Lanegan Band – St Louis Elegy

Blues Funeral is the seventh album released by Mark Lanegan this year. It has been a long awaited album since his success with his 2004 album, Bubblegum. After his long touring with the Soulsavers, The Gutter Twins and former Belle and Sebastian member, Isobel Campbell, Lanegan has created a wonderful set of tunes worth the wait. Lanegan had previously released six solo albums, which mostly compromised of blues and acoustic based music. Of course, his deep, scratchy vocals are still evident on his newest effort. Working with well-known producer and musician, Alain Johannes, in addition to working with a guitar, Lanegan experimented with keyboards and a drum machine, which is something he has not done before. Blues Funeral opens a new realm for Lanegan, as he still keeps his signature style of writing intact. Lanegan talked about how for his latest album, he used a “lot of the elements” from music that influences him. He stated that he wanted to make a record that he himself would listen to personally and listed The Gun Club’s Miami, Joy Division’s Closer, and Roxy Music’s Country Life as his primary influences.

Blues Funeral kicks off with its first released single, “The Gravedigger’s Song”. What is most evident in this song is Lanegan’s use of the drum machine, although Jack Irons plays percussion on the entire album. It’s upbeat and serves as the perfect start for the album.
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01.21.2012

FROM THE VAULT: Tom Waits – Blood Money

Tom-Waits-Blood-Money

In 2002, Tom Waits released Blood Money along with Alice. Both albums are based off of plays that were adapted by theater director, Robert Wilson. Blood Money is based off the socio, political play called “Woyzeck”, which was originally written by the German poet, Georg Buchner in 1837. The premise of the play revolves around a true story of a German soldier who is driven to insanity by strange army medical experiments and problems with infidelity, which ultimately drove him to murder his lover. The songs that Waits wrote with his wife, Kathleen Brennan, were for an avant-garde production of “Woyzeck”, which was directed by Robert Wilson. The play was premiered in November 200 at the Betty Nansen Theater in Copenhagen, which won the Danish rendition of the Tony award for “Best Musical”.

Tom Waits – Another Man’s Vine

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