11.13.2011

FROM THE VAULT: Pearl Jam – Binaural ca. 2000

Pearl Jam - Binaural

No one could really know what Pearl Jam would come up with next with the releases following their 1994 album, Vitalogy. Binaural, released in 2000, follows Pearl Jam’s tradition of attempting to explore new grounds with their music. Binaural was the first album to include the drummer, Matt Cameron, who at the time was a former member of Pearl Jam’s grunge contemporary, Soundgarden. The departure of Jack Irons inevitably lead to a change in the band’s music. However, albeit an amazing drummer, Jack Irons departure did not leave Pearl Jam in the dust. Matt Cameron brought a new ingredient, making Pearl Jam more focused and stronger than before. Cameron ultimately added a new back bone to the band without any sacrifice. At this point, Pearl Jam was ahead and matured from their grunge years during the early 1990s. Maintaining what makes Pearl Jam unique, they continued their string of experimentation with the introduction to binaural recording, which attempts to use 3-D stereo sound in order to place the listener in the same room as the performers of the music. Binaural recording is used for the intent of listening to it with headphones, rather than stereo speakers, hence the use of the technique, “Dummy head recording”. Pearl Jam also integrated sounds of psychedelic and post-punk sounds into this album. In addition to Pearl Jam’s progression to new grounds, bassist, Jeff Ament, and guitarist, Stone Gossard, contribute their own lyrics to the album, making it the second album that singer, Eddie Vedder, gives lyrics rights to other band members since their previous album released in 1998, Yield. Along with the new experimental sound to the instrumentation, the lyrics featured in Binaural are darker and focus on social criticisms. Lyricist and singer, Eddie Vedder explained that the album is about the importance of freedom in humanity and how people should be comfortable with their own existence. Risking the loss of fans, Pearl Jam wanted their audience to listen with new ears without any expectations.
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11.12.2011

An Interview with Bobby Selvaggio

Bobby Selvaggio

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with saxophonist and composer Bobby Selvaggio. Bobby’s playing is well known in the Cleveland area for being fresh and innovative, as well as being highly emotional and athletic! I was beyond pleased to see that as of recent, Bobby’s music has begun to reach a wider audience through his most recent recording Grass Roots Movement on Arabesque Records.

What I have always enjoyed about Bobby’s playing is his deep appreciation for and understanding of the jazz tradition. I also admire his ability to capture the creative and courageous essence of jazz and his way of placing it within the context of his own personality and the whims of the present moment. Bobby does not play solely for his own enjoyment, though it is easy to hear and see the joy that can come from his music. He is a leader of numerous ensembles, a mentor to many students, and is also a good friend.

An Interview with Bobby Selvaggio

Aidan Plank: Is there anything you would like the WOBC audience to know about your music?

Bobby Selvaggio: Most everything I record is original music and very personal to me.  I’ve always been a composer and an improviser that let’s the music guide me, hearing shapes and sounds and reacting to those shapes and sounds.  The tag line in my email signature sums it up best:

Be soft in your practice. Think of the melody as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream, have faith in it’s course. It will go on it’s way, meandering here, trickling there. It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you.- Sheng-yen

With Grass Roots Movement in particular, it’s similar to other things I’ve done, but from the standpoint of being electric in nature versus being acoustic.
AP: I really enjoy both your strengths as an improviser and composer, and I’m curious what your process of composing is like? Do you have a method to your composing? How does the process differ from your improvising or how is it the same?
BS: My composing process really varies.  I’m a big fan of letting the music guide you and letting it take you where it wants to go, both with composition and improvisation.  But, there are times I’ll start with a bass line, build a harmonic structure around it, and build a melody around that like with Return to Sender and Fish Food (from Grass Roots Movement).  Sometimes I’ll take a simple melodic theme like the first 4 bars of movement and build a whole tune around that.  I started Dust Bunnies with an opening vamp, with the harmonic progression, and the tune flowed from that.  I mostly compose at the piano, not my saxophone.  And rarely do I have a compositional technique in mind that I try to fit in.  Usually when I try and make something fit in, it doesn’t work.
11.02.2011

Fresh on the Shelf: Atlas Sound – Parallax

Once or twice a week, a member of pop workgroup will review an album that was recently selected to be put in WOBC’s vault. Today, Michael Stenovac writes about Atlas Sound’s Parallax.

atlas sound - parallax

I’m often wary of exploring solo projects from my favorite bands because they tend to be quite masturbatory. Thankfully, Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox’s band Atlas Sound does not fit into this category. Perhaps it’s his nature as a tenuous romantic that prevents him from falling into the trap of self-indulgence – at times, Cox seems too self-conscious to strut. But if Bradford ever feels the need to brag, he certainly could:  he possesses an incredible talent for fashioning misery into gorgeous and twisted 60s-influenced pop. Every reverb-soaked moment is immaculately constructed and his stream-of-consciousness lyrics are both unnerving and touching. While Cox is guilty of liberally borrowing sounds from his previous works alone and with Deerhunter, Parallax is so damn well-done that it doesn’t even matter.

Atlas Sound – Terra Incognita

11.01.2011

Review: Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hot (1997)

Squirrel Nut Zippers’s album, Hot, which was released in 1997, brought about much success to the band that was not conceived to come true. Similar to their previous album, The Inevitable, the Zippers come back with a postmodern, big band sound. Unlike their contemporaries, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Royal Crown Avenue and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, they deliver a raw and humorous set of songs that reminisce of the jump blues and swing era of the 1930s and 1940s without over producing their music. The Zippers do not easily fall under the genre of Swing-Revival of the mid 1990s, which brings back the sounds that made Louis Prima popular. Hot showcases a mixture of various influences including Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt, Tom Waits and Delta Blues music.

The album kicks off with “Got My Own Thing Now”, which sounds as if it was pulled out from a swing record collection from the 1940s. This fun, jumpy ditty hooks the listener and gives a reason why they should listen to this album and start swinging. The next track introduces Katharine Whalen on “Put A Lid On It”. This catchy tune creeps in with a call and response between Ms. Whalen and the rest of the band with its waling muted trumpet. The Zippers come back on their feet with the raunchy instrumental, “Memphis Exorcism”. Next up, Tom Maxwell and Ms. Whalen give a sweet, slow dance tune that floats above Ken Mosher’s soft, rhythmic saxophone and James Mathus’s jazzy guitar riffs in “Twilight”. “It Ain’t You” breaks into a dark disposition, which embodies elements of rockabilly.
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10.30.2011

Spoooooky Pop Picks!

Halloween Tiger with Pumpkin

Halloween Tiger with Pumpkin

It’s almost Halloween, so that means you need a tight playlist to bang at your Halloween party! But what to play? Don’t worry, pop group’s got you covered:

1. Any song backwards: Ever listened The White Album backwards? Stairway to Heaven? These have nothing on Pink Floyd in reverse. If you have not heard Brain Damage or In the Flesh the wrong way round, you have not heard scary music. Actually, just listen to anything in reverse, it’s all pretty whack.

2. Papillon by the Editors is pretty scary sounding. Don’t listen to it when you’re alone!–

3. Boris, the Spider by The Who: When I was little, my dad always used to play “Boris, the Spider” by the Who in the car, and I thought it was the most EXTREME song ever. Plus, what’s more Halloween-y than spiders?

4. Kissability by Sonic Youth: Despite its name, Kissability is perfect for Halloween. And what’s more dead than Thurston and Kim right now? (RIP)

5. Dreams Made Flesh by This Mortal Coil: This Mortal Coil is like the evil Cocteau Twin. Elisabeth Fraiser gets really freaky, and the echoes surrounding her seem to dissolve into whirling clouds that suck up the entire song. All that’s left is darkness.

6. The Doldrums by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti: When you weren’t invited to egg cars with the cool kids, pump this one by yourself. Pouting, Ariel self-deprecates and falls into the deepest void there is — his mind.

7. Christine by Siouxsie and the Banshees: Get your groove on with the cute skeleton at your party to this goth-wave romp about a shape-shifting mistress.

-Aria Dean, Peter Fogg, Kailia Holt, Heidi Marsh, and Alison Kozol

10.24.2011

Life After “1234″ Feist’s Tale

Feist - Metals

It’s September 2007. The commercial for the new iPod nano is playing on the television (or your computer screen). Yeah, the new iPod is great, but what is that addictive song in the background?! That is the question that most people had, and soon “1234″ by Feist had a cult following. Elmo was even singing a version with Leslie Feist on Sesame Street. Feist was everywhere.

Then most people forgot about her due to her self-imposed exile from the music industry.  She told Canadian Press in 2008 “I just need to rest for a minute.” She went back to her roots and played a few shows with Broken Social Scene, but for the better part of the past four years she was out of the public eye.

Feist was suddenly a conversation topic again when British artist James Blake released a cover version of her 2007 song “The Limit to Your Love” in late 2010. After months of quiet rumors of a new album, Feist released her fourth album Metals earlier this month. The differences between Metals and The Reminder are clear. Instead of a shadowed image of Feist with rainbow lasers coming out of her neck on the cover, we just have the letter “f” made of branches,with a tiny image of Feist on one of these branches. None of the twelve tracks on the studio album have a catchy “1234″ hook. The songs are more subdued and focused on mood. They have intense instrumentals and chorus parts, especially on the ninth track, “Undiscovered First”. Dedicated Feist fans will have this album on repeat, but it is unlikely that the casual listener of “1234″ will appreciate Metals. In fact, the casual listener probably dismissed Feist as a one-hit wonder years ago and has not thought about her since that iPod nano commercial in 2007.

-Anais Stewart

10.21.2011

New Freeform Shelf MVPs: César Bolaños, Bee Mask, Borden/Ferraro/Godin/Halo/Lopatin

César Bolaños (b. 1931)Peruvian composer of experimental instrumental and electroacoustic music. This track, “Intensidad y Altura,“is a tape piece from 1964, voices surfacing and swirling, ghostly presences, funky grains.

“Intensidad y Altura,” Cesar Bolanos

 

Bee Mask– He played in Oberlin a few weeks ago. “How to Live in a Smashed State,” from the album Elegy for Beach Friday, has gongs and electronics.

“How To Live In A Smashed State,” Bee Mask

 

Borden/Ferraro/Godin/Halo/LopatinFive people playing synthesizers. Few surprises here, a typically spacey and deftly executed new-age jam. Ferraro’s been here the past two years, Laurel Halo was here a few weeks ago, Dan Lopatin is here tonight as Oneohtrix Point Never.

“People Of The Wind Pt. 2,” Borden/Ferraro/Halo/Godin/Lopatin

 

Enjoy