Good Music / Bad Music

Kid Koala / Modifi / Telepath – Knoxville, TN – 10.10.2009

by on Oct.12, 2009, under Good Music, Video

kid koalaAs far as multi-act live shows go, it’s rare that one comes along that is definitively awesome from beginning to end. Sometimes the acts may all be quality, but the in-between time breaks the flow of the evening. Sometimes the headliner is all that’s worth giving one’s time to. Sometimes it turns out to be the same case for the supporting acts. Sometimes, it doesn’t even feel like a show, so much as just some stuff going on. Audience can play a part, too. Sometimes a lack of audience enthusiasm can wreck the energy of the thing. And yet sometimes too much enthusiasm can distract from the thing on the stage. I’m so very glad to acknowledge that not one of these circumstances played out as such the other night at Knoxville’s Club Catalyst.

modifiEverything kicked off a little after 10PM with local DJ, Modifi. I have followed Modifi for several years now. At least since his humble beginnings in garage rock bands around town. I’ve watched him evolve from a decent guitarist into an incredibly skillful turner of the turntables. (You can download one of his earlier releases, as DJ Simon Belmont, here.) On this evening, he had at his disposal two said turntables, a laptop and the necessary mixer. Perhaps he was harboring more on that table, as he’s been known to use an MPC and other goodies from time to time. I couldn’t elevate my perspective enough to tell for certain. Whatever he had, though, he used it well.

Without veering hard into pop territory, Modifi kept the music moving as any good DJ should. There was a touch of M.I.A. and T.I. here and there, but never as a standalone. The more modern servings were cushioned all around by Modifi’s own signature beats, as well as elements of classics and obscurities alike. As his set went on, it became difficult to discern what was coming from where anyway.

After a relatively swift and smooth transition, Kid Koala took the stage. His set up was mostly minimal. Three turntables and a mixer. No computer. No beat machines. Not even headphones. There was, however, a video projector displaying his set up (and all that he did with it) on a large screen above his head. This allowed for a more defined audience focus on his ability, pure and simple, and not just the music, itself. We were not in a position to merely dance, but to admire and be awed.

His set moved primarily between rock, hip hop and jazz. Meshing it all together, he did some tricky maneuvers. There was the usual exchanging of records and sliding of faders one would expect. Also, though, there were drops and juggles that could only be executed by a man who knows his music very very well. When I say, “knows his music,” I am not intending to pay respects solely to a knowledge of songs. Sure, he has good taste, but he literally knows his music. He knows not only what is tonal with what, but specifically where on his records those tones occur, bouncing the needle appropriately.

Among the more memorably novel aspects of his set were an ode to Louis Armstrong, an onstage remix of the White Stripes and the spacey, ambiance drenched work over of “Moon River,” dedicated to his mother. There was also the matter of a girl named Dawn. Dawn was celebrating her birthday at the show by heckling Kid Koala. Apparently she was expecting something more pop and less “turntable crap,” and so the Kid bantered with her from the stage. This lead to her taking to the stage, barely saving herself from a potentially nasty fall, and actually turning off one of the turntables by accident. The crowd booed her, but Koala was endlessly diplomatic and gentlemanly toward the southern, drunken birthday girl. By the end of the set, she was dancing her ass off like everyone else, even returning to the stage again to prove it.

telepathThe aforementioned “Moon River” closed the set out. After another brief, seemingly seamless intermission, Telepath took to the stage. Their equipment (guitars, drums and electronics) had already been set up on the stage, allowing them to dive right in. Their music complimented Modifi and Kid Koala well, as did their fairly decent light show. Where Kid Koala’s act was very forward and driving, Telepath worked it down into something that sat back and grooved. The dancing bodies continued to dance, but now without having to think or focus as much. It all drifted into the realms of a casual love in.

There’s not much to say about Telepath aside from the fact that it’s great music (and their guitarist has crazy Eraserhead hair). I hesitate to label them as a “jam band” though they obviously do jam around in their songs. If they are of such a classification, though, they are of a new school. This is not the sleeper shit popularized by the Grateful Dead and driven into the ground by Widespread Panic. No. This is tolerable. This is good because it’s really good…not because you are on drugs. (Though I couldn’t imagine the drugs not helping, I guess.)

Walking away from that show, I felt as though I was leaving some big shit event. It felt like something people attended with absolutely no doubt about its freshness. Call it an energy in the air. Call it an exceeded expectation, or a perfect surprise for some, perhaps. Whatever it was, it all equated out to a perfect storm of entertainment and a truly stellar evening for all involved. Even Dawn.

Kid Koala’s Ode to Louis Armstrong:

Kid Koala’s interaction with Dawn, the drunk heckler:

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Modest Mouse – No One’s First and You’re Next

by on Oct.10, 2009, under Good Music

Modest Mouse has come a long way without having to water down their music or message. Modest Mouse has come a long way because it’s genuinely great music. They reeled in the indie rockers early on with a handful of simply produced, thin music with heart. They slowly unfolded into dimensions of space rock and more macabre offerings as on The Moon & Antarctica. By 2004, they were able to capture a commercial audience, while still maintaining positive critical reception, with Good News for People Who Love Bad News. And then, at last, with the release of We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, the boys hit number one on the Billboard charts. Truly a rags to riches story if ever there was one.

Their newest offering, No One’s First, and You’re Next is a collection of repolished, unreleased material from the sessions that produced those latter two, commercially strong releases. Though this disc is technically a collection of outtakes, it still feels like a whole new album. It also feels like something of a return to the wirey, gruff sound that defined everything before those commercially strong releases…with better mastering, of course.

So it’s as close to older Modest Mouse as we’ve had since newer Modest Mouse. Perhaps that’s why these tracks were kicked off the final versions of their prospective initial releases. They are not so much of an evolution of any aspect of the band’s talent. There is no major forward motion in the exploration of the sound. There is nothing that transcends the color of the last two discs. This is an acquired taste that takes several listens to fully explore and appreciate. For Modest Mouse purists, this is excellent news.

None of this is to imply that this is a formula they should always follow. Good News and We Were Dead are both fantastic releases. It’s just nice to know that, beyond their increasing grandeur, the band is still in touch with its core simplicity and frivolity. It is also still in touch with their sardonic nature. As usual, it’s a bit snide, but never tactless. It also carries a weird undertone of positivity, which is not new for Modest Mouse, and still difficult to pin down absolutely.

Generally more poetic than sentimental (or at least poetic about sentiment) Isaac Brock’s lyrics are primarily filled with subjective observation. He dives headlong into the ironies of human nature. “We all try harder as the days run out,” he reminds us on “Perpetual motion machine.” He determinedly explores the absurdity of adopting false ideals to fit in with one’s peers on the opening track, “Satellite Skin.” “Even crooks have to pay the rent,” he quips on “King Rat,” an apparent outtake from We Were Dead.

This release is a healthy one. First, it’s inexpensive, without sacrificing quality, since everything was already recorded. Additionally, it’s the kind of thing that allows the band to take a step back and press out all they have sitting around before moving on to the next step. Call it closure. From here, it’s tough to say what they will do next, but we can count on two things: 1) it will be good and 2) it will sound like Modest Mouse.

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Busdriver – Jhelli Beam

by on Oct.04, 2009, under Good Music

I can’t truly figure out Busdriver’s true propensity for “selling out.” He certainly has more talent then Lil Wayne, Yung Joc, Young Jeezy and 99% of all else on the idiot radio. This talent comes both in vocal ability and beats. He’s also been in the game much longer than most of today’s redundant rap robots. Yet there he sits, unknown to all the wealthy suburban thug assholes that eat up all the gangsta garbage and keep the money flowing. Busdriver deserves to be what everyone likes in a perfect world. It’s barrier breaking, catchy and far ahead of its time. He also rages quite blatantly about all those rappers contributing to the imperfect world they continually pollute.

So what is it, Busdriver? Are you truly so benevolent that pretzels and cheese are more than enough earnings so long as you can keep to the truth you’ve always perpetuated? Or is the rest of the world so simply ignorant that they have never given you the myriad of expensive possibilities you deserve? Busdriver is one of those entertainers that deserves to have millions thrown at him, all the while honoring his list of demands. You know…like Beck.

On the other side of the coin, the perks are these: First of all, Busdriver belongs to himself and his moderate number of fans. The Dave Matthews Band stink of a frat following does not exist here. Also, and most importantly, whenever he raps against the evils of the recording industry and the “entertainers” they support, there is nothing false about it. He does not simply state these criticisms, he practices what he preaches. Could Busdriver be the Jesus Christ of the rap game?

Okay. So Jhelli Beam is the newest offering from our beloved Busdriver. My first impression is that it’s very difficult to imagine that something so truly unique came out of Los Angeles…a land generally only as unique as the corporate destruction they impress on grassroots goodness from other lands. However, this seems to be the deepest digging yet from Busdriver. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if this is hip hop or…something else? As far as genre goes, it’s relatively undefinable in places.

Busdriver has always dealt in obscure samples and rich, multi-layered textures. On Jhelli Beam, though, every single phrase of sound at least feels like something new. It is as if a painting, with a new flourish of color for every three inches or so of canvass. He tackles sound structures that are highly unconventional for rap or hip hop. There are tempo changes (“Scoliosis Jones”), minimalist jazz drumming (“World Agape”), African roots fusions (“Manchuria”) and nonsense that dares to be poetic, rather than hokey (“Unsafe Sextet”). Verbally, Busdriver’s cadences are always sharp, thoroughly versed and on-point. Listening, it becomes painfully obvious that neither an autotuned asshole like Kanye West nor a generally sensible bigwig such as Jay-Z have the base talent to keep up with them, let alone mimic them.

Jhelli Beam is everything that rap and hip hop could have been and should have been. Unfortunately, it was hijacked by cocaine corporate interests and watered down to the sad state it exists in today. Lil Wayne may be content to program a simple, repetitive beat loop, say a bunch of repetitive, unaffecting words over it and cash his checks. Busdriver, however, is dedicated to the craft more than the millions…and it shows.

Please do the world a favor and reallocate your money as necessary.

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Danger Mouse and James Mercer form Broken Bells

by on Oct.02, 2009, under Good Music, mp3

brokenbellsThere aren’t really any details at the moment, but the news is refreshing: Danger Mouse (producer if Gorillaz, Beck and Gnarls Barkley among others) and James Mercer (of The Shins) have begun a new project.

Said project is called Broken Bells. Officially, Danger Mouse will be using his real name, Brian Burton, for this project. They already have a website up, too, but it’s not much to look at so far. Bookmark it, though, because I’m sure it will deliver in time.

Burton and Mercer have worked together already on the track, “Insane Lullaby” from the Danger Mouse / Sparklehorse collaboration, Dark Night of the Soul. It’s certainly one of the better tracks from the disc. If that’s any indication, Broken Bells just might be well beyond expectation.

MP3: “Insane Lullaby” by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse with James Mercer

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Thom Yorke to debut supergroup of sorts

by on Oct.01, 2009, under Good Music

thom yorkeThe other day on the Radiohead blog, Dead Air Space, Thom Yorke made the announcement of a yet unnamed new band he has assembled to perform the music from Yorke’s solo disc, The Eraser. Apparently, their first public jaunt will be two shows at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles on October 4th and 5th. (Geeze. Thanks for the short notice, asshole.) If you’d like a ticket, knock yourself out here, you lucky bastard.

And just who will be playing in this group of super friends? Here’s a list, with accolades:

Flea – of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Nigel Godrich – producer of Radiohead, Beck, Pavement, Paul McCartney, etc.
Joey Waronker – long time drummer with Beck
Mauro Refosco – David Byrne collaborator

I suppose it is worth mentioning that Refoscoe is also in a band called Forro in the Dark. They’re not too everpresent yet, but are working on it and making great strides.

So that’s that. Let’s hope it goes over well enough that they can maybe get that act going somewhere other than stupid Los Angeles.

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Mixtape Podcast: The Politics of Aging

by on Sep.28, 2009, under Good Music, mp3, Podcasts

agingWe’ve decided to start posting music podcasts here on GMBM. We’ve actually got a ton of them in storage, but we don’t want to overkill you with them, so we’ll see what happens. Each podcast will be presented in a single MP3 file, with a flow of the music in mind. You can usually get more information on the individual tracks (or the albums they are from) by clicking the titles in the tracklist.

Here is the first one we are throwing your way:

PODCAST: The Politics of Aging

Tracklisting:

“Sgt. Pepper’s Paradise” – Guns N’ Roses vs. The Beatles vs. Jimmy James
“Fine Line” – Paul McCartney
“Coffee & TV” – Blur
“Once Upon a Time” – Air
“Le Premier Amore” – Anaïs
“Golden Age” – TV on the Radio
“Strange Overtones” – David Byrne & Brian Eno
“A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger” – of Montreal
“Just a Friend With the Clap” – Shirley Ellis vs. Biz Markie
“Go There With You (Radio Edit)” – Chin Chin
“Bull Black Nova” – Wilco
“Longing for a Frozen Sky” – Ernst Reijseger, Patricio Mura & Gianluca Frau
“Divine” – Sebastian Tellier
“Tonight” – Koop & Mikael Sundin

Enjoy!

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Senryu – Laughing in Slow Motion

by on Sep.24, 2009, under Good Music, mp3

dyinginfastforwardcoverOkay. This is the last bit of Senryu news for a while. I promise…I think. I know they’ve been getting hella coverage here at GMBM. Deal with it. They’re a great band.

Anyway. You may recall that we recently reviewed their latest album, Dying in Fast Forward, as well as the release show for it. We told you that it was possible to download their entire catalog at senryu.bandcamp.com. That was totally true, until now.

Not yet posted there is Laughing in Slow Motion, the companion disc to Dying in Fast Forward. But guess what! We have an early leak, which we’re giving away in its entirety, right here…almost now.

Basically the entire disc is a full on remixed version of Dying in Fast Forward. The songs are in the same order, but are newly reinterpreted and/or reconstructed by the likes of Alkaline, Frozen Cobra, Arrison Kirby, Little Red Lung and Agent15. Though I will state that it’s a near impossible task to trump the original, we’ll leave it to you to review it yourself.

And here are the tracks so that you can do just that…

MP3: “Poor Embarrassed Bird” – Senryu vs. Alkaline
MP3: “Shiver And Shine” – Senryu vs. Frozen Cobra
MP3: “Dying In Fast Forward” – Senryu vs. Arrison Kirby
MP3: “Jericho Ruins Everything” – Senryu vs. Little Red Lung
MP3: “Simulacra” – Senryu vs. Agent15

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Busdriver – Knoxville, TN – 9.22.2009

by on Sep.23, 2009, under Good Music, mp3, Video

busdriverHip hop shows, perhaps more so than other music performances, are very hit or miss. A group can either dress it up, like Outkast, or dumb it down, like Grand Buffet. The best of these offer something more than a dude and his homeys rattling off karaoke. Live instruments are always a plus. A good DJ who knows what he’s doing can win me over. Sometimes all you need are twenty or more people on stage, falling over each other or humping or whatever. There are a million ways to go on the stage. Prior to his performance, I was hoping hard that Busdriver (real name Regan John Farquhar) would not be lazily rhyming over an iPod hooked into a d/i box.

And thankfully, he didn’t.

What he did do, was take the stage at the Pilot Light rather unexpectedly, during the time that most of us thought was going to be an intermission between Abstract Rude and himself. There was hardly anyone in the room. I even thought to myself from outside, “Why the hell would the DJ be playing Busdriver if the guy’s taking the stage in a few minutes?” Ah, but there he was, crowned with Christmas lights and doing what he does. As the people outside slowly realized the show was moving on without them, they gathered round and the intensity of it all increased.

Verbally, he is pretty amazing. Far beyond all the autotuned garbage on the radio, Busdriver’s voice is distinct and his skill is often quick and always precise. Backing up that voice was a thunderous onslaught of beats and samples, which he controlled, in part, by himself. He also had a guy, apparently named Matt, at the back of the stage, working what looked like an MPC and occasional guitar. Matt seemed uncomfortable, at first, but eventually was right there with it. I can’t say he seemed to miss a beat, regardless.

One of the beautiful aspects of this set was the truly punk rock ethic to it. As Matt beat his pads, Busdriver pressed buttons and twisted knobs, throwing the whole thing into a frequent and intentional disarray. The cacophony of noise never failed to segue nicely into bouncy and epic beats, evening everything out and working the room into a frenzy.

My only complaint of the evening was the song, “Avantcore,” which I had no idea was so popular around here. It began with some strange disjunctive omission of notes here and there, which seemed interesting at first. The problem is that it never really got going. It seemed to drag on much slower than I’ve ever heard on disc. I’m not sure if this was an intentional choice by the artist, but it was iffy on the stage. Thankfully, the energy of all else made well up for this single snafu of the evening.

This tour is to promote Busdriver’s new record, Jhelli Beam. Hopefully I’ll get a review of it in soon enough.

Here is the video for “Me Time,” the first single from Jhelli Beam:

Here are the rest of his tourdates, in case you want to catch him near you (and you should):

SEP 23 – BIRMINGHAM, AL @ BOTTLETREE
SEP 24 – BATON ROUGE, LA @ CHELSEAS
SEP 25 – DALLAS, TX @ THE CAVERN
SEP 26 – AUSTIN, TX @ RED 7
SEP 27 – HOUSTON, TX @ WALTERS ON WASHINGTON
SEP 28 – SAN ANTONIO, TX @ ROCK BOTTOM
SEP 30 – EL PASO, TX @ BLACK MARKET
OCT 01 – TEMPE, AZ @ CLUB RED

Lastly, here are some MP3’s:

MP3: “Avantcore” by Busdriver
MP3: “Buy 1 Style Get the 2nd Free” by Busdriver

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Rockafire Explosion – “Love in This Club”

by on Sep.22, 2009, under Good Music, Video

This has been around for a while, but it popped back into my head recently. If you’ve seen it before, the reminder will probably be refreshing. If you have never seen it, you are in for a treat. I’m particularly fond of the rapper.

Ladies and gentlemen…the Chuck E. Cheese house band…Rockafire Explosion!

And don’t forget to pick up one of their vintage hits…

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The Beatles – Abbey Road Remastered (and the one thing they can improve next time)

by on Sep.21, 2009, under Good Music

51jszEU4LVL._SL500_AA240_A couple weeks ago, a remastered version of the entire Beatles catalog was released, alongside (The Beatles: Rock Band).  Considering the timelessness of their contribution to both music and sound, in general, this was excellent news.  I decided to dive in with Abbey Road, which is probably my favorite Beatles record.

Now, I suppose it’s kind of dumb to review an album that’s already been around for forty years and is, by any measure, considered a classic.  So there will be nothing here like: “Starr’s “Octopus’s Garden” seems to be much less off putting than his previous contributions, and fits well with the rest of the record, despite its overt quirkiness.”  I mean…no shit.  Right?  We all know the album.  There are, however, two main observations I would like to divulge.

First of all, the remastering job on this record is top notch.  Apparently, someone spent four years tweaking the catalog and it certainly sounds like it. Though some of the gruffness is properly still in tact here and there, it really sounds as though this is a newly produced work. But it’s not.  It’s the Beatles. As a result, there is a strange phenomenon that occurs when we listen.

See, the Beatles normally make a listener feel kind of happy.  It’s positive music, with colorful sound choices throughout.  Listening to these remasters, however, an undercurrent of mild depression sets in.  We hear not just what can be done with music, but what was done with music a long long time ago.  Because the dynamics of the sound are as crystal clear as any of the music today, we must begin to ask ourselves: “What the hell happened to music today?”

Not all music, of course. But popular music.  In the 60’s, the Beatles were on the radio and everyone loved it.   It was difficult to wrap ones mind around, for it was such a revolutionary sound for the time, and yet it was so accommodating that no one was really afraid to try.  Fast forward to your radio today and we have to settle for Lil Wayne and Lady Gaga?  Considering how much money is being thrown at trite crap like that, you’d think the coked out execs could at least afford to make it sound decent.  What the hell happened?

But I digress.  After all, this is article is filed under “Good Music” and indeed, the Beatles are.

The second and final point I’d like to hit on is something that has always bothered me about Abbey Road.  I’d like to submit it for discussion so that when they remaster the album again in 2020 or whenever, it may possibly have a chance at being debated.

Here we go…

If we are not afraid to enhance the sound of The Beatles, I believe we should also not be afraid to enhance the order of the songs.  That being said, there is one fundamental flaw with the flow of Abbey Road.  I believe now, and forever so shall, that “Here Comes the Sun” and “Come Together” need desperately to swap positions on the record.  If you do not believe me, burn yourself a copy with these songs interchanged.

As it stands, “Come Together” kicks off the album and “Here Comes the Sun” ushers in the second half.   It would make more sense to the flow if “Here Comes the Sun” started off the whole thing, leaving “Come Together” to fill in what should be an edgier, more minimalist space between “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Because.”  Additionally, this would put more songs in between “Here Comes the Sun” and “Sun King.”  Those two “Sun” songs so close together detracts from what would otherwise seem to be an intentionally woven theme.   If my proposed changes were made, we could have one “Sun” song for each half of the album.

I know most people would not have ever really thought about that.  Most people have already accepted Abbey Road for what it is and are likely resistant to the idea of this change.  But consider this: my proposed order actually is the order on some of the older cassette issues of Abbey Road.  That is how I found out, unintentionally going down that path.   Now that I’ve been there, however, I will never go back.

Switch and see!  Switch and see!


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