Archive: January 2007

365 Days, 365 Files: Bleach – Sun-dance(Moon-dance)

It’s a rare and gratifying experience when a record store employee puts something on the in-store stereo that gets customers asking about what’s playing.

I was surprised when I discovered the buyers at the record store where I used to work managed to get Bleach’s self-titled album in stock. This was before Australian Cattle God released the album in the States.

So I cued it up to play in-store, and when it came on, a number of customers came up to the counter to ask what was playing. I think one was asking out of repulsed curiosity, but the other two were genuinely digging it. Someone eventually bought the album right then and there. I earned my paycheck for the day.

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365 Days, 365 Files: Bleach – 声 (Koe)

Back when I hosted a Shoutcast server here on the site, one song on the playlist was "Koe" by Bleach.

It’s the most deceptive track on the band’s debut album, Kibakuzai. Sporting a melody and an actual guitar hook, the song indicates nothing of the stormy performances featured on the rest of the album.

Oddly enough, Kibakuzai is the band’s most polished album, fidelity-wise. Subsequent albums would go for a muddier, less pristine sound, but all of them pack one hell of a wallop.

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A blip on the radar

One Christmas season when I was working at a record store, the personnel manager hired two black guys to augment the staff. One of my coworkers said it was nice to have a little diversity in the mostly white staff.

(Derail: I was one of two Filipinos employees, which is remarkable considering there are only 10 of us in the entire Austin metro area.)

"But what about Raymond?" I asked, referring to the only black staff member till that time.

My coworker replied in all seriousness, "Raymond isn’t black."

Raymond hangs out in punk rock clubs and listens to a ridiculous range of music, most of it of the indie rock variety. He would probably be described as a blipster, as the New York Times so schools us.

Offensive Engrish joke: If a black person is into Japanese indie rock, would that make him or her a bripster (ブリップスター)?

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Oh these kids today

As mind-boggling as Jay Greenberg’s talent may be, Philip Hensher adds his voice to the chorus of skeptics on Greenberg’s work.

I’ve been thumbing through a book titled This is Your Brain on Music by former record producer, now neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitan. He discusses Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, to which Greenberg has been compared. Levitan points out scientific research that shows it takes 10,000 hours of practice and work to master a skill.

Although Mozart began composing as a child, it was until he had worked and studied for more than 10 years that he began to produce works with a lasting impact today. Twenty hours of work every week for 10 years approximately equals 10 years.

Greenberg started composing when he was Mozart’s age. He’s about 16 now. In another 10 years, he should be doing marvelous stuff, if the booze, women and dope don’t get to him first.

365 Days, 365 Files: Björk Guðmundsdóttir & Tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar – Luktar-Gvendur

When I finally came around to the idea Björk could actually have a decent solo career — I was not impressed with Debut — I heard tell of a jazz album she recorded in Iceland. I figured I probably would never lay my eyes on so esoteric a release.

Then I was introduced to Waterloo Records — some time in 1997 — and eventually, the store had Gling Gló in stock. Curiosity won out, and I bought the album.

Björk recorded the album in 1990, between the Sugarcubes second and final albums. By the time I heard it, the idea of Björk singing jazz wasn’t alien — "It’s Oh So Quiet" was a radio staple by then.

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Chris Butler: Museum of Me, Vol. 1

If Chris Butler isn’t the most literate songwriter of our time, he certainly is the wittiest. Stephin Merritt’s deadpan sounds dowdy next to Butler’s whimsy.

And Butler is nothing if not brave.

He set the record for the longest pop song in the world — according to the Guiness Book — for "The Devil Glitch", a 69-minute tune with an impossibly long chorus. His 1997 album, I Feel a Bit Normal Today, contained songs bordering on theatrical. But his most daring achievement to date is The Museum of Me, Vol 1, an album recorded entirely on vintage consumer recorders.

We’re not talking White Stripes studio revivalism here — we’re talking about finding the early century equivalents to the Walkman which taped Michelle Shocked at the Kerville Folk Festival in the mid-1980s. We’re talking wire recorders and aluminum cylinders.

In an interview with Tape Op magazine, Butler sought these devices out not because they sounded good but because they sounded bad. The moment he recorded a song on an old cylinder, he created instantly vintage music — something that sounded old and scratchy and from another time.

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365 Days, 365 Files: Bill Frisell – The End of the World

Bill Frisell’s music can be introspective, sparse and unsettling. He titled one of his albums, Ghost Town, and the environment he evoked on that album was certainly appropriate.

But with Nashville, Frisell brought in musicians not necessarily schooled in the high-minded aesthetic of his downtown New York regulars. As a result, the album turned out to be one of his most accessible.

It was also one of his most energetic works.

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365 Days, 365 Files: Bill Frisell – Billy the Kid: Celebration After Billy’s Capture

When I heard Bill Frisell tear through Naked City’s miniature hardcore epics, I made the usual youthful assumption that Frisell plays that way everywhere. His own albums, however, come from a creative space worlds apart from John Zorn’s seminal band. Where Naked City was precisely controlled, compact chaos, Frisell’s solo albums were expansive, transparent serenity.

Have a Little Faith, Frisell’s cover album from 1993, is what every cover album should be — a perfect balance between the spirit of the source material and an interpreter’s own perspective. At times, Frisell’s take on a song is worlds apart from the source material. He made the songs his own without shutting out the author’s voice.

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365 Days, 365 Files: BBMak – Back Here

To think it was only five or so years ago that teen pop was practically a means to print money …

Something that lucrative begets strange experiments — tweaks to a formula to stretch the longevity of fad with the half life no faster than an eye blink.

That’s how you get BBMak, a band that combines the pop appeal of 98 Degrees with rock appeal of the Goo Goo Dolls. That’s synergy, my friends! It’s also a Frankensteinian cross-breeding yielding inadvertently humorous results.

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365 Days, 365 Files: Béla Bartok – Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta

I took a music class that bundled a trio of cassette tapes with the textbook. This was back in 1991, when CD players were starting to achieve their ubiquity. Textbooks bundled with CDs wouldn’t happen till the following year.

I wish I had taken that class a little later in my college career. Those cassettes are long gone, and they provided a really great cross section of European music from the Renaissance all the way to the late ’80s.

One of the pieces on those tapes was Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta by Béla Bartok.

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