Archive: September 2007

I guess I should thank Mo Ostin?

Exploring the Amazon MP3 downloads makes me realize how much the Warner/Elektra/Atlantic family of labels shaped my listening habits.

Honolulu wasn’t a hotbed of indie rock when I was growing up — I don’t think it’s a hotbed of indie rock even now — but to its credit, it did have room for Tower Records and Jelly’s Comics and Music. The stores stocked mostly major label product, and what post-punk music was available were on the majors.

As my appetite for music grew, I developed a sense of what labels were more in tune with my taste than others. More times than not, the bands I liked were somehow linked to WEA. My ultimate geek dream was to work for Nonesuch Records. Actually, it still is. Before it was blinked out of existence, I would have wanted a gig at Elektra.

Warner Bros. Music Group is still holding out on the digital right management issue, so as a result, the "music of my youth" is not available as Amazon MP3 downloads. Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. seems to be dragged kicking and screaming into a world without DRM, but then again, Warner isn’t on top of the world anymore.

When it was, boy did it have a roster.

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Smashing Pumpkins: Zeitgeist

With Billy Corgan, I really have to separate the persona from the art. That’s the diplomatic way of saying the guy annoys me.

That is, the way he comes across in public annoys me. Dude takes out a full page ad in a newspaper asking his band back together. Not announcing — asking. Your average former rock stars would just pick up a phone (or have their managers do it for them.)

As the undisputed creative force behind Smashing Pumpkins, Corgan let his deification in the early ’90s get to his head, and the fans of the music have had to put up with it since.

All that to say I went into Zeitgeist with an excessive dose of skepticism — perhaps even hostility — and I was summarily humbled. This album is one of the best I’ve heard all year.

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Health or die, or the latest reason I’m neglecting this site

Right around the middle of August, I exhausted the momentum of my home studio work, which got in the way of updating this site. I said as much when I went down the rabbit hole to work on those various Eponymous 4 projects. I thought I’d resume regular updates to this site once I was "done", but I got sidetracked again.

After 10 years, I replaced my bathroom scale, and I discovered it wasn’t really forthcoming with me for the past few readings. I exceeded my personal acceptable ceiling for my weight by a long shot, and I became hellbent to bring that number down. (Note how I’m not actually revealing any figures.)

So every night for the past three weeks, I’ve been going to the workout room in my apartment building to walk the treadmill for at least half an hour. Being as out of shape as I am, I’m not exactly spritely after such sessions. In other words, I haven’t had much energy to post many updates.

Since I’ve added this new regimen to my daily routine, I figured I may as well work toward getting my body mass index (BMI) to an appropriate level for my height. (Nope. Not revealing that figure either.) I estimate at the rate I’m going, it’ll take at least six months to a full year. I won’t let the site go stale for that long, but at the same time, these longer silences will be around for a while.

Maybe at a point when I get, well, in shape, I can balance blog and health. For the time being, I’m going to focus on health.

Podcast #1-4. Duran Duran: Medazzaland

I’ve been pretty hard on Duran Duran since the start of the decade, if only because I’ve heard the band at its best. Astronaut and Pop Trash are not their best.

The last time Duran Duran really produced something distinct and signature was Medazzaland. It had some of the band’s best writing, but none of it was very suitable for radio play. Back in 1997, major labels attempted to trumpet underground dance music as the new face of alternative rock, and Medazzaland had the raw material to broker such a transition. But then the Spice Girls and Hanson happened that year, and the labels went where the cash was.

Some notes:

  • Midazolim has been used as a plot device on Law & Order and The Closer. Anytime it’s mentioned, I always think of this album.
  • I wrote the script for this show when I wasn’t so bitter about the band. I had a hard time delivering the line about Duran Duran paying no mind to time with a straight face.

Songs featured:

  • Medazzaland
  • Big Bang Generation
  • Be My Icon
  • So Long Suicide
  • Midnight Sun
  • Electric Barbarella

Quruli: Tanz Walzer

The members of Quruli really overextended themselves in 2005. 2004 saw the release of Antenna, one of the group’s strongest works, and a lengthy tour which took them all over Japan and portions of North America. After all that activity, it would make sense to recharge a bit, right?

Nope. Guitarist/singer Kishida Shigeru and bassist Satou Masashi went headlong into helping Cocco stage a comeback with Singer Songer, then later Quruli released its fifth album, Nikki. Neither project possessed the focus of the band’s recent work at the time. Kishida and co. were spreading themselves too thin.

So it’s with cautious optimism that I approached Quruli’s sixth album, Tanz Walzer. Opting instead to release a greatest hits collection in 2006, Quruli took the break they should have in 2005. Was it enough time for the band to recharge? That depends on your expectations.

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Podcast #1-3. Emmylou Harris: Wrecking Ball

Wrecking Ball is one of my desert island discs. It’s an album I can go back to again and again and never get tired of it. This album really got me into Emmylou Harris, and as a result, country music stopped being verboten. Thing is, the album isn’t overtly country — I don’t think it even got airplay on country radio — but Harris has such a spellbinding voice, it’s difficult not to be curious about her previous work. If I revisit Harris again, I may feature Bluebird or Pieces of the Sky.

Some notes:

  • Is “route” pronounced like “boot” or like “gout”?
  • “Other-worldly” is a damn hard compound word to pronounce.
  • I don’t even mention Neil Young, Lucinda Williams and Larry Mullen, Jr. of U2 all play on this album.
  • A boxed set of Harris rarities hits stores on Tuesday, Sept. 18. I didn’t intend to time the broadcast of this podcast with that release.

Songs featured:

  • Where Will I Be?
  • Wrecking Ball
  • All My Tears
  • Sweet Old World
  • May This Be Love
  • Waltz Across Texas Tonight

UA: Golden green

For the last five years, UA has set her muse loose to do pretty much anything it wanted. Children’s music? Check. Covers with a jazz trio? Check. Avant-garde big band? Check.

These explorations yielded adventurous results, and it was easy to admire the gumption behind the drive. It wasn’t necessarily music you could like, but YMMV, of course.

Golden green shows the pendulum swinging back, with UA delivering some of her best pop music in years, at the same time not surrendering the eclecticism she’s forged on the last few albums.

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John Corigliano: Tournaments Overture/Elegy/Piano Concerto/Gazebo Dances

John Corigliano has an Oscar and a number of composition prizes under his belt. His father was a renowned concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic. So he’s got some serious cred in classical music circles.

And yet the First Edition reissue of orchestral works performed by the Louisville Orchestra didn’t seem all that impressive. Perhaps the fact I was listening to this disc as well as First Edition’s reissues of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and George Crumb colored my perception. Corigliano’s set of works doesn’t possess the timbral adventurousness of Crumb or the lean expressiveness of Zwilich.

But perhaps history plays a role as well. The very first Corigliano piece I listened to was his Symphony No. 1, a work inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS quilt. The piece won a Grammy Award for best contemporary composition, and it’s tough not to feel the anguish, anger and darkness of the piece.

The works on the First Edition release feel quaint by comparison.

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Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Chamber Symphony/Double Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra/Symphony No. 2 “Cello”

Composers in the classical tradition — even living ones — aren’t immune to fashion. Maybe they don’t cycle as quickly as their pop music counterparts, but any study of music history follows the "trends" that came into — and out of — favor with composers and audiences of the time.

Just as Nirvana spawned its share of imitators, so too did Ludwig van Beethoven. And just as the White Stripes was called neo-garage and Eryka Badu neo-soul, Igor Stravinsky wasn’t above dabbling in neo-classical, and serialism? Oh, so stylish in the post-war years.

The labels are still getting thrown today — minimalism, post-minimalism, post-classicism, neo-Romanticism, totalism. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich doesn’t follow any "-isms", so states the liner notes from the First Edition reissue of orchestral works performed by the Louisville Symphony. Rather, her works concentrate on the rigorous development of motifs. If I were so lazy, I’d call that neo-Hadynism.

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Oblivion Dust announces new album at reunion show

At the end of a pair of reunion shows at Shibuya-Ax, Oblivion Dust flashed a message on the video monitor behind the stage: "New Album. Coming Soon." Bounce.com reports guitarist KAZ posted on the bulletin board of his official site that the band has already recorded some songs, although a title and release date have not yet been determined. Oblivion Dust split up shortly after the release of their third album, Butterfly Head, in 2000, and lead singer Ken went on to form Fake? with Inoran of Luna Sea.