Friday, November 30, 2007
Ebay description: Tony Joe White is moving studios, and in the process, many exclusive items have been uncovered. He will be auctioning off these items, many of which will be autographed, over the next few weeks.
In 1972, a 29-year old Tony Joe White entered a mare into the West Tennessee Appaloosa Association horse show. Of the '71 mares, TJW's took the 4th place prize, and this trophy recaptures the crowning moment. The trophy stands approximately 17" tall and was crafted out of fine Italian marble by Champion Trophy Company in Memphis, TN. Although the horse refused to sign autographs, the trophy is autographed by Tony Joe White himself. This piece would make a fine addition to any eclectic music memorabilia collection.
We are happy to ship anywhere in the world. Feel free to email us if you have any questions. Happy bidding!
Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind (Singles And Demos 1964 To 1967)
This set's title song is most notable not for the singer but the composers: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who gave the song - more folk-pop sweetness than "Brown Sugar" - to their producer Andrew Loog Oldham, who made it the debut release by his protégée, Vashti Bunyan. Today, Bunyan is a goddess to the freak-folk community, due to the sturdy beauty of her 1970 album, Just Another Diamond Day. But at the time of these rarities, Bunyan was part Joan Baez, part Marianne Faithfull, with a virginal alto floating through Pet Sounds-like madrigals. The unreleased singles "Winter Is Blue" and "Coldest Night of the Year" and the loping daydream "17 Pink Sugar Elephants," from a '66 home tape, have the exotic-minstrel flair of '66 Donovan, while a CD of 1964 demos - Banyan alone, plucking guitar on her originals - is warm juvenilia. The diamonds came later.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
[Db/ Armageddon; 1980; r: DFA; 2007]
…on which the beloved Gyrate gets its remastered, expanded, completist, contextualized due. Even with liner notes by principals from R.E.M., the B-52's, and Gang of Four, this reissue from the dependable vinyl-miner James Murphy at long last permits the appreciation of Pylon to stop being hipster homework; DFA's generation-later vouch frees the listener, finally, to enjoy the assaultive relationship of Michael Lachowski's often ominous boing-boing-bass and Curtis Crowe's hot-pursuit whackamole drumming. The 10 songs from every copy of this seminal Athens band's debut are here, as well as both of the alternating "11th" tracks. Also included: The "Jamaican" version of "Danger" ("Danger!!") from the Pylon!! EP, the confident first single, and a previously unreleased track whose title is also, less than incidentally, Gyrate's defining preoccupation: "Functionality".
declares everything cool, baiting dissidents. "Dub" brags angrily of devouring dub at the start of each day, lest any white British acts think themselves superior The original three musicians had a self-assignment. Their aim: To get NYC ink and then press kaboom. They weren't yet traditionally proficient with their instruments, and thusly seemed to approach their technological implements with a "How can I use this tool?" ethos, resulting in a kind of primitive precision, each member locking into a groove hardly ever intuitively related to that of another member. Before they found Vanessa Hay (née Vanessa Briscoe), they came close to using a recording about teaching parrots to talk as "vocals." Hay's eventual Situationist bark often reduced musicality to Pavlovian stimulus-responses via a joyless-sounding (but, ironically, joy-producing) series of reports or demands: "Cool" fascisticallydigesters of the mode. Whereas Joy Division demanded "Dance, dance, dance to the radio"; Pylon grunts the tad-more-individualistic "Dance, dance, dance if you want to," even though the invitation is parsed like a warning with harsh consequences. "Volume" instructs its audience to "forget the picture" and "turn up the volume." "Gravity", obviously about the physics of the nightclub, taunts listeners by telling them that they both "cannot resist the urge" and "cannot dance," framing the insanely danceable track as an incitement to rebel against its mouthpiece. "Read a Book" is some seriously infectious Maoist literacy-advocating combat-rock.
Other tracks seek to provoke proletariat detournement: "Precaution" is about anything but risk minimization. "Human Body" juxtaposes bottom-rung job skills ("I can sweep/ I can mop") against enlightened capabilities ("I can think") while espousing "safety glasses" and "safety shoes" for the sake of a vessel that can "function/ without going to school." "Working Is No Problem" pretends to establish boundaries between the brain and the body, but the knowledge that Hay was a nurse, factory worker, and Kinko's manager makes it even more literally functional: Lyrics such as "Everything's in boxes" and "I'm not a racecar driver" obtain a kind of not-neurotypical discipline. "Stop It" raises the faux-dictatrix stakes, as the listener is instructed first to not rock-n-roll, and then to rock-n-roll on cue. "Driving School" merely catalogs, unromantically, the common nouns of public schools' instructing folks to use the dominant/subsidized means of transportation. The song insists that for certain industries, the government is a willing propagandistic babysitter, and even the stereo is implicated. Yet: all of these cuts are pogo-able, full-on jams, every scraped string ahead of (the mainstream version of) its time.
Did Hay adopt such a dry tone in order to defuse gender-based responses to her band's art, to become a sexless object instead of a sex object? (I, for one, am intimidated by the orgyhole-shorthand-versus-radio-signal agenda of her current project, FFFM.) Many a female-led band since (Numbers, Controller.Controller, Love of Diagrams, Glass Candy) has adopted her iced-ham, standoffish tone. Maybe, like her fellow Georgian artist Flannery O'Connor, Hay "refused to do pretty." Meanwhile, her bandmates were busy wondering how minimalist, how non-"human," analog dance music could get without ceasing to be fun. The result: a kind of militaristic disco. No, wait, I meant: android reggae. No, wait, I meant: postpunk without the melodrama. Of course Pylon didn't blow up like their fellow Athens luminaries; they were too fucking Spartan.
-William Bowers, November 28, 2007
A snippet of Pylon performing live and fantastic Vanessa Hay & Randall Bewley interviews.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
[Anticon (U.S.) / Tomlab (EU); 2007]
Rating: 7.0 / 7.4
Yoni Wolf and his band Why? are outcasts from groups of outcasts. While Anticon is an apt fit for his verbal diarrhea, even Wolf's folk-leaning early work stood a few yards apart from the label's roster, and their recent work has even less to do with hip-hop than the highly experimental collective that launched records from the likes of Doseone and Odd Nosdam. This isn't necessarily a bad thing-- 2005's Elephant Eyelash further blurred genre lines, leaning on guitar and drums but within freewheeling near-collage-like compositions, and it gained the group its biggest audience to date. A subsequent opening slot for the Silver Jews' first honest-to-god tour delivered on expectations and found them wowing open-minded audiences with their performances and confounding search engines across the country ever since.
Now, Why? issue a pair of 12" records of remixes and covers-- one on Anticon and one on Tomlab-- in advance of their March 2008 album, Alopecia, featuring sometimes unlikely contributions from Boards of Canada, Xiu Xiu, Dntel, Half-Handed Cloud, and members of Yo La Tengo and Islands. Why?'s own contribution to this new EP-- you know, the single it's named for-- is even further from their already tenuous relationship to hip-hop. On the track, Wolf "sings" more, the track's ominous dirge-like beat sounds more rock than hip-hop, and its sudden lurches in tone and instrumental interjections feel that much more linear.
While "The Hollows" is an enticing enough peek at their upcoming full-length, what's more interesting is how much inspiration other artists find in Why?'s material. Not only are these grab-bag EPs consistent-- which should be a contradiction right there-- the songs contributed would fit well in each artists' own catalog. Two groups take a crack at "Yo Yo Bye Bye", from Elephant Eyelash. Xiu Xiu's attempt (from the Anticon EP) is a little too wordy to leave room for Jamie Stewart's dramatic vocals, but he sounds comfortable with the rapid verbiage while the gentle electronic soundscape feels warmer, and has a pulse that races quicker, than much of his band's recent, more contemplative work.
On the Tomlab version, Dump (aka James McNew of Yo La Tengo) offers a version of "Yo Yo Bye Bye" that sounds as intimate as any of his home-recorded projects, and features much of the same reverberating fuzz bass and drum machines, but with a patience and a bump in recording fidelity that make it far less claustrophobic. It's also far less fragmented than the original, which turns out to suit the evocative lyrics just fine.
On the Anticon EP, Half-Handed Cloud are the black sheep, attempting a drums, piano, and voice medley of Why? songs called "Pree-Teen Apocalyptic Film Acting" which is expectedly precious, your enjoyment of which may depend on your tolerance for the band itself and the sound of a musician's ambitions skipping merrily outside the bounds of their ability.
To further twist bullyish tension burns on the arms of fans, The Hollows EPs feature two remixes of tracks from the upcoming Alopecia. Dntel's Anticon EP track returns to his cuddly headphone-techno roots with its insistent, espionage-evoking beat. Wolf's steadier, typical hip-hop delivery makes what could be an MOR move for both into a mind meld instead. But Boards of Canada, with the understated but insistent loping beat they add to "Good Friday", make you wonder why they're not working with more rappers. They bring a newfound clarity and movement to Wolf's words, and even though he's working a deadpan monotone, BoC manage to add several different textures without ever stepping on his toes. Though they've remixed the Anticon roster before, it's a tantalizing step outside of BoC's comfort zone, and an amazingly sensitive collaboration, over which Wolf leabes some provocative call-outs and males plain-faced admittance of the therapeutic value of his lyrics ("shit I wouldn't even admit to my head-shrinker"). The slinky beat and restrained horns make for a track that sounds sun-kissed and debauched all at once.
Joining BoC and Dump on the Tomlab release, Nick T of Islands might throw the biggest curveball on either EP with a cover of Wolf's side-project Reaching Quiet's "Broken Crow". Dour and weightless, it's a sluggish classical piano and drum dirge that ends with an sharply incongruous keyboard tone (not so far from Boards of Canada), hinting at depths his band has yet to plumb. One single and two remixes is a bit of a tease for those waiting on the release of Alopecia in a few months, though each of these singles handily stands apart on their own. -Jason Crock, November 27, 2007
The Octopus Project - I Saw the Bright Shinies (MP3)
How many bands could or would dare to mix Nintendo-centric beats with grungy noise rock? This Austin quartet has damn near perfected it with Hello, Avalanche, their third proper album. Last year the band was thrown into the spotlight after their throng of MySpace fans won them a spot at Coachella. Since then they’ve toured and toured some more, captivating audiences at SXSW and capturing numerous prizes at the Austin Music Awards. This album is the first that the OP have not self-produced; this time around they entrusted their demos to Northwest producer Ryan Hadlock (Blonde Redhead, the Gossip) with additional mixing assistance from Erik Wofford (Explosions In The Sky, Voxtrot). The result is a jolting playground of toy keyboards, cymbals, and the much-dabbled-with theremin, enough to keep the greatest instrumental skeptics coming back for more. The album’s closer, Queen, does provide some unprecedented vocals that listeners may or may not be grateful for. Check it out for yourself and come back to tell us what you think. Meanwhile, the band’s MySpace page has a bunch of tracks to peak your interest, and if those don’t do it for you, perhaps this performance of Truck in Dallas, TX will:
Album: Third Ear Candy
Review Date: Nov. 14th, 2007
John Terlesky, it seems, is always on a downer. But it’s a provisional downer: or rather, he’s living in a kind of medicated post-bummer suspension – whether prescription or self-prescribed – that’s numbed and fuzzy. It doesn’t admit to the extremes of manic depression, but just…sits there, watching television, staring at the way the TV’s glow reflects off white-washed walls, an odd bit of navel gazing to pass the day…
I’m not interested in building a psychological profile of Terlesky. He seems like a nice person, he’s insightful in interviews, and all you seriously need to do to come to grips with the Brother’s temperament is clock his lyrics. “Medication” is archetypal, leaping from widescreen scrolling through culture, religion, education and politics in the verses, to the personalized chant in the chorus: “That’s why I have to take my medication.” Earlier in the song, Terlesky growls, “I got some problems, but I’m working ‘em out, in my own way,” which is pretty much a précis of why Brother JT makes the records he does these days.
On Third Ear Candy, Terlesky broaches electronics like never before: some of the tracks swim by on perky drum machines and samples from old orchestral or pop sides, and his wild electric guitar is replaced with bubbling waves of synth squirm. If these changes have next to no effect on Terlesky’s worldview, as an audio artifact Third Ear Candy is relatively chirpy at times, even funny. The hit that could never be, “I Am the Blob,” rides by as though Beck never happened, with genuine loser sentiment attached: “I am the blob, and I’ve come to rob you of your problems, so give me a job.”
Music critic and Deep Water editor Kevin Moist once referred to Terlesky’s aesthetic as that of “drooling as a constructive activity.” I don’t think anyone’s come remotely as close to summing up everything that’s so great and unique about the guy’s take on “one living room vs. consensus reality.” And Terlesky was doing it all, perfectly, while Ariel Pink was still gobbling R. Stevie Moore. So how’s about cutting him some slack? After all, Terlesky’s wise beyond your years
By Jon Dale
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Nomadic Folk Musician Finds New Fans
By Joel Rose
Weekend Edition Saturday, November 17, 2007 - Michael Hurley's carefully crafted songs and hand-painted album covers have endeared him to a small but devoted group of musicians and critics. Now, more than 40 years into his career, Hurley is reaching a broader audience — including a younger generation of fans who are covering his songs — and releasing his new record, Ancestral Swamp, on Devendra Banhart's Gnomonsong label.
Hurley drives a car he calls the "Blue Alligator," a 1973 Dodge Coronet station wagon, and he talks like he drives: His thoughts are separated by long pauses. His songs don't seem to be in a hurry, either. Knowing Hurley since the 1970s, music journalist Byron Coley agrees.
"To go to a Michael Hurley concert or listen to one of his records really is to enter another kind of universe where time moves a little more slowly, and narratives develop at their own pace," Coley says. "But they develop very fully.
"His songs are an unusual combination. The lyrics can be very funny. But few of them tell stories of triumph."
Hurley briefly recorded for a major label in the 1970s, but those records quickly fell out of print. He's probably best-known for his contribution to the 1975 recording Have Moicy, a collaboration with the Holy Modal Rounders.
Hurley grew up in Bucks County, Penn., with one of the original Holy Modal Rounders. They were all hanging around New York City in the early 1960s, says Rounders member Peter Stampfel, when they started playing a new kind of folk music.
"It's a confluence of traditional folk music and, um, drugs, basically, with the latter having a very active influence on the former," Stampfel says.
According to Stampfel, Hurley's 1965 song "Intersoular Blues" is one of the first examples of what's now called "freak folk," which he calls an unfortunate phrase.
Today, this scene that's been dubbed "freak folk" by the music press is an informal movement of acoustic musicians around the country. Some are inspired by the same recreational influences of the Holy Modal Rounders, as well as an earlier generation of acoustic performers from the 1960s and '70s.
Hurley's songs have been covered by a number of younger artists, including Cat Power and the Philadelphia-based band Espers. Espers' bassist, Chris Smith, found inspiration in Hurley's music.
"He was almost like my Bob Dylan, like our Bob Dylan of my friends," Smith says. "Where he was so American to a point where it was accurate, but it wasn't based on a decade or an era."
Bob Dylan and Hurley were born a few months apart in 1941. They both cut their teeth on traditional American folk music, and they're both painters. Hurley has painted most of his own record covers. They're populated by roughly drawn animals in human hipster clothing — characters from the comic books Hurley had been drawing since the '50s, before he was even writing songs.
"A lot of kids were doing that in those days, drawing little stories out and passing them up the aisle," Hurley says.
Two of his earliest comic-book characters were Boone and Jocko, a pair of wolves who amuse themselves by drinking wine and flirting with women. Stampfel says they were way ahead of their time.
"They're actually the first underground cartoons, I would say. He was drawing them in 1959, 1960, before there were any underground cartoonists. They were basically Bohemian, ne'er-do-well, layabout, slacker wolves," Stampfel says.
Conflating Art and Life
The line between Hurley's art and his life can get blurry. He refers to himself as Snock and sometimes takes on the persona of his cartoon characters. He's never stayed anywhere long, and he's been equally restless when it comes to holding a day job.
"I picked string beans. I planted ginseng. I sold hot tamales on the streets of New Orleans. I sold pretzels on the streets of Boston," Hurley says.
Hurley says that he's never held a job for more than six months.
"I don't like having to do something when I get up in the morning," he says. "I'd rather just hang out, do what I feel like doing, putter around the house, take a walk, you know."
Coley says it's partly this refusal to grow up and get a full-time job that's endeared Hurley to a younger generation of artists and musicians.
"The fact that he's been creating the way that he has for so long gives a lot of these younger musicians [the idea] that you can do this: be a nomadic, traveling musician in an Middle Age type of mode, today," Coley says. "And that it actually works."
Well, sort of. Michael Hurley isn't getting rich. But he does make a modest living from his paintings and music. He seems grateful that a younger generation is paying attention and helping him get decent gigs.
"They have to have their festivals," Hurley says. "Whenever they have one, they have to have their grandfather with them, which is good for me, because my peers aren't going to come out that night anyway."
Hurley turns 66 next month, though he still doesn't sound ready to settle down. After six years on the Oregon coast, he may be getting ready to point his old car toward its next destination.
"The floorboards start to seem like they're coming up at me," Hurley says. "And I just have to go."
Upcoming Hurley live dates:
12/04 Brooklyn, NY @ Union Pool
12/05 Braddock, PA @ Elks Lodge
12/07 Asheville, NC @ Harvest Records
12/08 Lexington KY @ Icehouse
12/09 Louisville KY @ Lisa's Oakstreet Lounge
Somewhat bad news - Beirut's Germany shows are canceled. Due to Zach coming down with a viral bacterial throat infection the band had to cancel four upcoming dates in Hamburg, Koln, Munich, and Schorndorf. Hopefully he'll be able to recover in time to finish up the tail end of the tour.
11/24 Lyon, FR @ Ninkashi
11/25 Zurich, CH @ Mascotte
Friday, November 16, 2007
He always was able to channel his love of music, film, literature & "place" into his bands, his label Honeybear, and his writing, and never lose that enthusiasm and good will that drove him. This, in spite of numerous life threatening setbacks and continuous struggles that would have taken a not-as-strong or courageous individual off their path.
Lance's history with myself and Revolver goes back all the way to the beginning of the company as he was the very first employee, and our association continued to the time of his passing.
I met Lance sometime in the summer/fall of 1989 around when the Cringer album was released. He had moved from Honolulu and bee lined straight for the SF Shipley St. warehouse where Mordam, Alternative Tentacles and Blacklist Mailorder were housed. I had just moved from Atlanta, to work at Mordam, and Lance hung out and volunteered at Blacklist.
By December 1989, I had begun doing business as what would evolve to be Revolver USA (we called it Scooby Doo unofficially in those days), and for the first 90 days I was calling stores and boxing up records out of Tom Flynn's Boner Records garage out around Ingleside Heights.
By February 1990, I had moved into a warehouse w/some other friends to be "serious about work". I was already scraping by, but had to borrow money from the now defunct Revolver UK distribution company to have some funds to pay rent, get a few phones and phone lines, and most importantly find somebody to help me do all the tasks involved in being a distributor and record label.
After 90 days of doing everything at every hour of day and night, I was hoping there was somebody who would be willing to come in at 10 am to start the day, allowing me to come in around noon and work through the afternoon & night. Lance was enthusiastic to do just this, assuring me he was the right person, and would be at work every morning to call stores, answer the phone and do whatever. In those days, I still drove, and I recall driving my van through the mission Southeast around noon heading to the warehouse off of Bayshore, and stopping many days to pick up Lance walking to work on Army/Caeaser Chavez. We had a little too much in common in that respect.
Along w/another enthusiastic assistant, Donna Dresch, Lance helped me really begin Revolver until his touring demands forced him to take leave. Lance's Revolver replacement, Bob McDonald, never relinquished his chair, so Lance had to look for a new job when he got back from his tour.
Lance & I maintained our association as J Church started taking off, and Lance (with Mikel) began Honey Bear Records, which Revolver has distributed ever since. Lance also was a tireless community advocate, in terms of networking and helping Bay Area (and any other) bands. Sometime early in '92, Lance mentioned some close friends of his were looking to release an album and thusly looking for a label, and that these guys liked a band I had released on Communion, Bitch Magnet. Would I be interested in funding recording of a new album as I wouldn't be sorry if I did ? Jawbreaker recorded "Bivouac" and I have to say Lance's idea was a sound one. I am grateful that Lance felt I could do right for Jawbreaker (and I'm thankful to Adam, Blake & Chris for believing Lance somehow).
Lance's d.i.y. consciousness meant that both his own band's and label's success were measured differently than in terms of financial success (though Lance would not have minded some fiscal compensation for all his travails).
Lance until this last battle, has had a habit of facing death and returning to face another day, as all who know him can attest. He had already previously survived failing organs, hospitals, & a massive fire which burned down his apartment (forcing him to climb out & down from his 3rd floor window in 2002). When living in SF he had walked into Haight St. Clinic for another matter and they had discovered congestive heart failure, and that he was at immediate risk. Some at the hospital professed amazement he was still alive, saying he had the heart of an 80 year old (then at 32). Lance had to change his diet and Mission greasy spoon eating habits immediately .
I communicated last with Lance in the usual way of this decade, via email, with his last email to me on September 28th . It was very difficult to read at the time as he was so ill, and I of course wish I had done something other than offer a few words of moral support in return. He had already faced calamity & dying more times than anybody I knew personally, so I thought he would make it through this time as well. And of course, so did Lance. He was planning on reissuing the Cringer CDs and that's why he was emailing me, not just to talk about his latest ultra terrifying brush w/mortality. But clearly, his experiences in September were the scariest yet for him.
He spoke of actually dying in the hospital, having gone "Code Blue" after the hospital overdosed him on delaudid. He had gone to the hospital in the first place because of a severe infection to his dialysis port , the dialysis necessary due to his kidneys failing .
After bringing back Lance, they had dosed him w/a drug, that takes away short term memory. He had been dosed so heavily that he had no short term memories for days afterwards. He would awake each of those days very sedated and ill, and not know what had happened previously. He couldn't speak because of a tube down his throat, so he had to write "am I dying?" on a pad to his girlfriend Liberty, and go through that same experience over and over for days.
I know many people are out there missing Lance right now. Lance has definitely left his mark on the many who knew him both personally and through his music and label and writing. Not having seen Lance in person for many years since he has been living in Austin, it's unsettling just how strongly I feel Lance's passing and I am sad to admit that I now will not have the opportunity to let him know just how grateful I am for having known him all these years, and for the friendship, trust and loyalty he has shown towards myself and all of Revolver. I must also mention again the incredible courage Lance has shown in facing his overwhelming physical struggles. It's very important to always remember somebody with such fine qualities and somebody who deserved to live a long fruitful life on battlefield earth.
Good bye Lance, you will be in my thoughts.
Read & Burn 03
[Pink Flag; 2007]
Wire are right where they want to be. Thirty years after their debut album kicked off a brilliant initial run of three albums, they're respected and independent enough to work free of the usual recording industry constraints, taking all the time they want to work on side projects and let their ideas form fully before committing anything to tape. This essentially ensures that anything they release under the Wire aegis will be at least worthy of the name, and the only pressure to produce is self-imposed.
How patient have they been? It's hard to believe it's been five years since Wire released the first two Read & Burn EPs, which were partially compiled in 2003 on the Send album in the U.S. Those EPs mostly ignored the innovative but sometimes unsatisfying electronic music Wire had made during its first reunion, from 1986 to 1991, returning instead to the bracing immediacy and brevity of their earliest music, but with a decidedly modern sound. Read & Burn 03 is something quite different altogether for Wire, a 25-minute EP with four songs that don't seem much like anything they've ever done.
The production here feels close to the first two Read & Burn volumes, but it's used to much different ends. Opener "23 Years Too Late" is nearly 10 minutes long and balances contrasting spoken and sung sections. The spoken sections are dominated by a warm, rounded synthesizer that slowly oscillates behind deep-voiced, poetic intonations-- on the whole, they sound like a British documentarian sucked back to the beatnik era. The sung portions are more what we've come to expect from Wire v.3.0, with a slapping drum part, gurgling bass line, and strangely processed guitars that cushion Colin Newman's layered vocals from the rhythm. The song eventually slips into an ambient coda descended from the band's earlier textural experiments on 1979's 154 and some of their late-80s albums.
The other three songs feel slightly more familiar. "Our Time" is late-period Wire in slow motion, with the drums and bass holding down a crawling tempo as Newman's vocal squirms under a blanket of effects and guitars seesaw through the mix. On "No Warning Given", the tempo is back up for an ultra-deadpan Newman delivery fringed by a cloud of ambient and guitar, which hardens on the chorus. The sonic details are interesting, with Robert synthGotobed's ride cymbal and snare drum becoming clearer when the rest of the instruments begin to bleed together into a wash. The final song, "Desert Driving", uses a basic loud/soft dynamic, with melodic bass in the verses and grinding guitar in the chorus, though Newman's vocal remains even throughout.
Throughout the disc, there's a curious lack of treble-- most of the sound is mid-range with a reasonably thick bass presence-- and it gives the record a very odd character while somewhat hindering its dynamic range. It's not quite Wire at their best, but it's an interesting expansion of their range, which, if word from the band is to be believed, isn't necessarily a sign of things to come. They've claimed none of these songs will appear on the next Wire album, which should be just over the horizon. That's good, because I prefer Wire unpredictable and willing to follow an idea almost anywhere.
-Joe Tangari, November 16, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
....This glorious wooden wall hanging includes a picture of a kneeling cowboy clasping his hands to pray. His hat and teddy bear are on the floor beside him, and beneath the picture is a prayer written by Beverly Corson: "Dear Jesus up above, Please listen on my behalf; Help my mom to understand That cowboys don't take baths." This item is autographed by Tony Joe White, and we are happy to ship anywhere in the world. Feel free to email us if you have any questions. Happy bidding!
Within These Walls
US release date: 25 September 2007
by Dave Heaton
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The phrase "headphones album" is overused by critics, almost always to describe music that is loaded with sounds. The inference is that you need headphones to hear all of the instruments, to truly "get" what is going on. Another kind of headphones album, though less often described as such, is an album that rewards patience. Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, Damon & Naomi, make those kinds of albums: slow and un-showy, rarely giving the listener simple, quickly grasped pleasures. Or at least these days they increasingly do. Their debut album, 1992's More Sad Hits, contained more concise, spare versions of their previous band Galaxie 500's swooning, hazy pop. Since then, Damon & Naomi's music has continually broadened in sound and scope. The songs have stretched out, and so has their perspective. The duo's 2000 collaboration with the Japanese group Ghost (With Ghost) cemented on record an international outlook already demonstrated by the duo's world tours. World-traveling has made its mark on their music. On their own label 20/20/20 they have began a series of compilations of music from abroad that they've discovered while traveling (International Sad Hits). Their 2005 album The Earth Is Blue looked towards Brazil and Japan, adding to a lush, sensuous version of their melancholy songwriting
As its title suggests, their sixth studio album Within These Walls looks not abroad but inward. Damon & Naomi themselves have described it as "ballads in a lonely mood". Significantly, though, they continue to follow the path towards musical expansion and collaboration. They layer these sad ballads with elegant arrangements of horns and strings, often arranged by Bhob Rainey of nmperign. And they bring back Ghost guitarist Michio Kurihara. His presence is almost a given nowadays with a Damon & Naomi release, after many live and studio collaborations. But it's no less remarkable. In this album's climate of patient intensity, his electric guitar cuts through the air in a striking, poetic way. The most explicit example is "Stars Never Fade". The song has at first a calming mood, with Yang singing with stars in her eyes: "The world through your eyes looks so elegant." But soon enough she begins to question how true this really can be, whether happiness is also just a game, a ruse, "trick photography". And then Kurihara's guitar rips into the song and lifts it upwards in a beautifully angry way. He does similar, if less dramatic, service to the rest of the album. Similar to how some film critics try to imagine an actor as the true auteur behind a body of film work, it's easy to imagine someone hearing this as a Kurihara album. His guitar is the thread that runs through the entire affair, drawing out the emotions. It's the Greek chorus, observing and commenting on the tragic human affairs acted out by the songs' characters.
In a way the album is marked by restraint. The general tone is gentle and calm, but there's always a sense that something much darker is not far away. In fact the lyrics put the darkness much closer; most of the songs' narrators feel like bleak, total darkness is upon them. But musically the duo never gives in to emulating the absolute dark. Instead the album seems a continual balancing act between the heavy and the light, between deeply sad sounds and more hopeful ones. The album's first song, "Lilac Land", has a moment which musically exemplifies the restraint Damon & Naomi display in their approach. The song begins with Yang singing of inescapable heartbreak. At about the two-and-a-half-minute mark, there's a moment of tense silence, where you're sure everything is about to explode. But the music doesn't explode, it just proceeds, all the more tense for it.
This aura of restraint is one reason Kurihara's electric guitar makes such an impression, by continually poking a knife blade out from the shadows. Yang's voice is especially placid and pretty throughout the album, as she and Krukowski each sing about heartbreak, loneliness, and the realization that the truth is cold and ugly. Their songs' protagonists often seem to just barely be holding their heads above the waves, just staying afloat. In the title track, Yang sings of the temptation of saying goodbye once and for all to this "world too unkind", and the wish for a deus ex machina, or at least a lover who cares: "when I hold my breath beneath the wave…come save me".
For an album that musically emulates a moment of stillness preceding potential utter devastation, it manages a surprising amount of diversity. The strings, horns, and Kurihara's guitar are part of this, as their appearances are carefully arranged to maximize the musical and emotional effect. But Within These Walls also includes enough musical passages that feel absolutely hopeful. The brighter passages lean against the bleakest ones, creating a balance that makes the album stronger. The album's second song, "The Well", is probably the loveliest Damon & Naomi song yet. It's open and airy, with a striking melody that buoys the sense of hope inherent in the lyrics. Krukowski sings high backing vocals that sweetly balance with Yang's voice as she takes the album's recurring water metaphor in an optimistic direction, singing, "wide-open water can set you free." And of course Kurihara's guitar plays a key role in this as well, gliding gracefully. The song shines even brighter because of its appearance between tragedies.
The same happens at the album's end, as another moment of hope is paired with something bitter. "The Turnaround" is a long-distance love song with a sense of starting over: "brushes dipped in fresh white paint / the turnaround / the change of key". The next song, "Cruel Queen", slaps it in the face, though. A distinctively creepy, yet somehow moving, update of the traditional folk ballad "The Trees They Do Grow High" brings the album to a brutal end. Damon & Naomi's version gives the song a fresh strangeness while retaining the feeling that it's an old tale, and that human manipulation of hearts is an ancient game. It caps off the album with the impression that Within These Walls's perspective stretches far beyond the walls of any one room, after all. Heartbreak is universal.
RATING: 7/10 — 6 November 2007
"I Wonder If" & "Oh Sister" amongst empty wine bottles.
European tour dates:
11/06 Berlin, DUE @ West Germany
11/09 Udine, IT @ The Zoo
11/10 Zagreb, HRV @ University
11/11 Belgrade, SER @ Student Center
11/13 Torino, IT @ Spazio 211
11/14 Pescara, IT @ Mano
11/15 Bari, IT @ Fortino
11/16 Roma, IT @ Init
11/17 Bologna, IT @ Covo
11/19 Paris, FR @ Fleche D'or
11/22 Aberdeen, UK @ Lemon Tree
11/23 Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
11/25 London, UK @ Scala
Monday, November 05, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Selcet Pylon live dates.
11/01 Atlanta, GA @ The E. A.R.L.
11/05 Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
11/07 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
11/09 Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
11/10 Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
Smoke [Tigerbeat6; 2007]
Rating: 8.3 Online review
Getting the full picture of Joe Williams' debut LP Smoke means making your way past the horrifically gaudy cover image to the production credits inside. There, after Williams' own writer/composer/engineer listing, is the name of the cover model, followed by credits for hair, makeup, "hookah prop design," and of course, "art." Williams, it is made clear, rolls as thick as the exhalant that gives his debut its name.
That aesthetic emphasis has landed Williams an opening gig for the recent electro-populist double-bill of Girl Talk and Dan Deacon. But while his tourmates get sweaty with the crowd as they tap away at their electronics, Williams keeps a cool distance. His songs are thin and languorous, with impeccable influences and the sort of calculated disaffection that comes from an MFA in design and a good weed connection. His attitude and vocal timbre have earned him comparisons to Beck, and that's more than fair: As glassy, nonchalant dance music, Smoke could be Midnite Vultures Redux: Something for the Blunted.
Mostly, though, Williams is a groove-obssesser working through his influences, and doing it with enough restraint and creativity to work them into his songs, leaving the showiness to his cover models. Smoke’s signposts form a coherent musical worldview: "In the Club" is T. Rex's "The Motivator" at 16 rpm, "Going Down" and "Route to Palm" work in the 70s West African guitar colorations that Dirty Projectors, Vampire Weekend, and Islands have been exploring lately, "New Violence" hurtles forward with a motorik bassline, and opener "Headlines" plays like a bubblegum version of Brian Eno's "Baby's on Fire". Even the umpteenth barely-augmented cover of "I Want Candy" feels like a distillation of the record's love for veneers.
Smoke's fondness of surfaces doesn't stop at the level of rhythmic appropriation, though; Williams takes an observational approach to lyricism that recalls early Roxy Music's tongue-in-cheek take on the glamourous life. In "Headlines", he crafts a series of slow motion scenester dioramas like "Climb all you can/ It's a killer stake/ We'll hang from the branches/ While the mayor dances/ In the headlines." "In the Club" tightens its focus, observing, "Trashy dancing baby got inside for free/ She's got the basement wrist/ She do the snow-blow twist." Like his predecessors, Williams doesn't distinguish much between style and peril; the middle of Smoke features "New Violence", "Going Down", and "Danger", which view impending menace as a necessity for sophistication.
Williams' ostensible depthlessness, like that of his forebears, is itself only a façade, and Smoke offers plenty to discover across repeated listens-- particularly the way in which he tweaks his own voice, melting and reshaping it like the models' Technicolor "tears" on the album cover. This tendency toward sonic self-mutilation underscores the most appealing aspect of Williams' persona: that underneath the mannerisms is a shy kid, too timid to force his will on his audience in the manner of his tour mates, content to watch and comment from the margins. Appropriately, then, a streak of dark nostalgia murmurs just beneath the glitzy exterior of "The Shadow". Williams remembers "driving toward collisions in our heads," "burning buildings and the rivals that we had," and "wailing widows and the moments that we bled," and in the process giving some context to that hard-to-forget cover image: fashionable high culture as a sad, grotesque fantasy.
-Eric Harvey, November 01, 2007
A Few White Williams live dates opening for Battles.
11/07 Minneapolis, MN. @ Fine Line Music Cafe
11/09 Ann Arbor, MI. @ The Blind Pig
11/10 Toronto, ON. @ Lee's Palace
11/11 Montreal, QC. @ Le National
11/12 Boston, MA. @ Paradise
11/22 Den Haag, NL @ Crossing Border
11/23 Brussels, BEL @ AB-club
11/24 Brighton, UK @ The Pressure Point
11/25 Bristol, UK @ The Croft
11/27 Aberdeen, UK @ The Lemon Tree
11/28 Glasgow, UK @ The Beat club
11/29 Newcastle, UK @ The Other Rooms
11/30 Manchester, UK @ Phoenix
12/01 Leeds, UK @ The Faversham
12/02 London, UK @ Cargo
12/04 Nottingham, UK @ The Social
12/05 Coventry, UK @ Taylor John's House
12/07 Reykjavik, ISL @ Organ Cub