Archive: August 2006

Listen: The Art of Noise – Instruments of Darkness

ZTT Records recently released a boxed set of early Art of Noise rare tracks titled And What Have You Done with My Body, God?

I was only recently acquainted with the charms of the band’s first full-length album, (Who’s Afraid Of …?) The Art of Noise!, but I’ve been familiar with its work since I was in the eighth grade. That was 1986, and "Legs" was a radio hit in America.

I bought In Visible Silence and proceeded the play that record to death, much to the annoyance of my siblings.

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Tower of music lover

No, this isn’t a review of the Quruli best collection. Tower Records files for bankruptcy.

The news story gets into the details of this particularly filing, which follows another filing back in 2004. The usual reasons are mentioned — competition from downloading and low-balling by big-box retailers.

Perhaps even more disheartening is the fact Tower is selling its three Honolulu stores. In the same way kids in small towns depended on Wal-Mart for their music retail, Tower was the only place I could get my hands on the (relatively) weird stuff I listened to in my youth. I pretty much grew up in the Honolulu stores.

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Listen: Duran Duran – Save a Prayer (DMC Remix)

I was late to the first-run of Duran Duran’s global success. I think it was late 1983 when I jumped in, by which time, the momentum of their career was starting to show signs of slowing down.

By 1985, the skids hit, and by 1986, Janet Jackson and Madonna ruled the MTV roost. In 1987, I was starting to branch into the college rock of the day (even though I was still in high school) and eventually moved onto classical and avant-garde. But I remained a Duran Duran fan even after their star faded.

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Eluvium: An Accidental Memory in Case of Death

I caught Eluvium at SXSW 2005 when I showed up early for mono’s set at the Temporary Residence showcase.

Sole member Matt Cooper alternately performed on electric guitar and piano. Although the long, fuzzy pieces he created with his pedal effects screamed "post-rock", it was his piano pieces that caught my attention.

They aren’t anything complex or technically challenging, and they’re really only a few steps above Enya in terms of harmonic adventurousness.

But I still like listening to them anyway.

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Listen: Dylan Rice – March of the Misunderstood

Dylan Rice’s 2004 debut Wandering Eyes is one of the best albums I’ve run across this year, but I think I’m saying that partly (mostly?) because I think Rice is hot.

And he’s gay, so I have a better chance at a groupie fantasy than I would with, say, Roger Taylor of Duran Duran, ca. 1983.

Now that I think about it, I haven’t given much thought to the power of sexual attraction on good musicianship. Part of my Duran Duran fandom was borne of the fact I was becoming aware of my sexual orientation around the same time I was discovering the draw of music.

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György Ligeti: Études (Books I and II), Idil Biret, piano

Back when I worked at a record store, the news of an artist’s death made my coworkers and me speculate on how much a spike we’d get in selling that artist’s CDs.

György Ligeti passed away on June 12, 2006, and I contributed to that spike a few days afterward. I asked the classical expert at the store where I worked for some recommendations, and I ended up with a Sony disc of string quartets and duets and a disc of piano etudes.

With 20th Century classical music, it’s far too easy for living composers to wank in the guise of dissonance. I listened to a lot of modern classical music back in college, and as high-minded as that art world can be, it’s no more immune to mediocrity than rock music.

Ligeti is the real thing.

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Listen: China Digs – Star Wars Trilogy Blues

This entry involves a bit of nepotism. I met Jason Groteleuschen back in 1997 at the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Internship training seminar. We’ve stayed in touch over the years because we’re both music nuts.

I’ve even reviewed his old band, the Prarie Cats, a number of times in the past.

Before the Prarie Cats, Jason had a band in college named China Digs. He handed me one of their CDs, and I listened to it. I liked it, but I was particular enamoured of a hidden track at the end of the album.

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Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair [Deluxe Edition]

My brother and sisters took an instant disliking to Tears for Fears back in 1985, and at first, I agreed with them. I think it was "Shout", however, that made me break ranks and earn their pre-adolescent scorn.

Songs from the Big Chair ended up influencing me as a musician. I was taking my first steps as a songwriter in 1986, and "The Working Hour" seemed to leak its way into the stuff I wrote.

Rolling Stone magazine once described Tears for Fears as the missing link between Sade and the Cure. "The Working Hour" is perhaps emblematic of that bridge — there’s the requisite ’80s saxophone and that DX-7 piano. But at its heart, it’s still post-punk.

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Listen: Mandy Barnett – Don’t Forget to Cry

(I’ll make a few of these post this week to get things rolling, then proceed to neglect them with my usual level of attention.)

The major labels really didn’t know what to do with Mandy Barnett.

She got development deals with Music Row before she graduated from high school, but nothing came of them. After she was cast as Patsy Cline in the stage play Always … Patsy Cline, she recorded two albums with two different labels, neither of which reached Kenny Chesney levels of success.

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Looking ahead: Aug. 2006-Oct. 2006

To adapt a phrase from Project Runway’s dapper Tim Gunn, this coming fall release schedule concerns me.

I’ve been putting off throwing together a "Looking Ahead" entry till I get a nice long list of future releases that attract my interest. I’ve been waiting a long time.

That’s not to say it’s not going to be a packed season — it’s just not going to have anything for which I’d throw down money. And that’s true for Japanese releases as well.

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