Archive: January 2008

Favorite edition 1989

From junior high throughout high school, I went through phases. I would listen to a particular style of music exhaustively — much to the dismay of my family — then move on to something else. 1985-1986 was my New Wave period. 1987-1988 was my jazz-pop and radio hit era. 1988 was the year I discovered Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim. 1989 found me getting into college rock and classical music.

When I started college, my listening habits "stabilized", and I didn’t listen to one type of thing at the expense of other stuff. That doesn’t mean I still didn’t have my phases, each of which will become apparent as I compile more lists.

1989, though, was the year that would establish the foundation of my listening habits today. It’s heavy on what would become alternative rock, with other genres providing some needed contrast.

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Osvaldo Golijov: Oceana

At the end of his book The Rest of Noise, author Alex Ross describes a "great fusion" where "intelligent pop artists and extroverted composers speak … the same language." He demonstrates the point by comparing Björk with Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov.

If you were to listen blind to Björk’s "An Echo, A Stain," in which the singer declaims fragmentary melodies against a soft cluster of choral voices, and then move on to Osvaldo Golijov’s song cyble Ayre, where puslating dance beats underpin multi-ethnic songs of Moorish Spain, you might conclude that Björk’s was the classical composition and Golijov’s was something else.

With Oceana, my first reaction to the piece was pretty quick: Finally! The follow-up to Spiritchaser Dead Can Dance never recorded!

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Emerson String Quartet: American Originals

If you’ve ever watched Platoon, you’ve heard Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Go to any classical music section of a record story, and you’ll find the Adagio on just about every Barber CD in the bin.

Barber, essentially, is a one-hit classical music wonder with the Adagio. He joins Johann Pachelbel (Canon in D) and Carl Orff (Carmina Burana).

The Adagio, however, is the second movement of Barber’s only string quartet, a work seldom recorded. Even Kronos Quartet opted to focus on the Adagio instead of the whole work on Winter Was Hard.

The only recording still in print to contain the entire quartet is Emerson String Quartet’s Grammy Award-winning album American Originals. (At least, it’s the only recording I could find.) The album focuses on two American composers traditionally seen as opposites in new music history: Barber and Charles Ives. This album, though, shows Ives and Barber had common ground at some point — perhaps not ideologically but maybe aesthetically.

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UA: turbo

The story of my change of heart toward UA’s turbo is the story of my change of heart toward reggae music.

turbo is often described as UA’s dub album, and while there are tracks with an obvious reggae influence, it’s not the album’s overriding aesthetic. Thing is, the description of the album keyed into a bias I already had — I don’t like reggae music.

When I downloaded "Private Surfer" from Napster at the start of the century, I said "Ugh" when I discovered the track was reggae. So I explored UA’s other albums, eventually buying most of them, and I even acquired turbo from the Evil Sharing Networks just to be a completist. But I would make no effort to drop the cash for a physical product. That was in 2000.

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On the playlist, or this year is taking off too quickly

I can usually zone out during the first quarter of any year. Releases generally don’t pick up till about March, and the holiday slumber takes about half of January to shake off. 2008 doesn’t seem to be conforming to that pattern.

Last night, I made a trip to Waterloo Records to pick up a number of releases from the last two weeks, and I’ve dropped quite a lot of change over at YesAsia for some new releases, which should be arriving in my mailbox in the next few days.

So the items on this list also join the items from my last post for hours and hours of auditioning. At some point, I’m going to have to write about them.

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If you have a Mass of Fermenting Dregs, will you end up with curds and whey?

Bounce.com put this band on the front page of its site, and their self-titled debut mini-album was posted to JPOPSUKI. So I decided to check out MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS, and I have to say I’m really enjoying them. The songwriting bounces around to just about every kind of indie rock — from sing-song pop to long-winded instrumental jams. It’s equal parts Condor44, unkie and Bugy Craxone.

Dave Fridmann, producer of the Flaming Lips and NUMBER GIRL, helms the last two tracks on the album. In fact, those tracks employ a bit of the thunderous reverb NUMBER GIRL used on SAPPUKEI. Check out the band’s Myspace page for audio samples. Oddly enough, the album is available over at YesAsia. Alas, I must wait for the next paycheck before I can place an order.

I’ve gotten really picky about finding new Japanese artists these days, so to be drawn genuinely to a band like MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS is a rarity. Honestly, I think the last time I encountered such an indelible first impression was with Sasagawa Miwa in 2004.

Leo Imai is another artist about whom I’m curious. I can see Ian’s point about Imai, and at the same time, I like what I’ve heard so far. I managed to find an MP3 of "Blue Technique" by some web search, and I’ve been listening to it regularly. It’s almost driving me to drop cash on the single. But I’ll be patient and wait for the album in late February. I don’t anticipate Imai displacing Shiina Ringo or any of my other oft-named favorites, but I think there’s enough to keep me interested for an album or two.

We’ll see.

Favorite edition 1988

OK, this idea of making favorite edition lists for years past is turning into a weekly series from now till the middle of May. I don’t think I really published any year-end lists on the old site, and I certainly abdicated the responsibility of compiling one for 2005. By the end of this endeavor, I’ll have covered 20 years of overview.

I’ve already set aside the entries, and I’ve compiled all the lists. I just need to write about them.

From 1985 to 1990, I developed this superstition along the lines of the Star Trek movies — the odd-numbered years were good, the even-numbered years not so much. (1990 broke that pattern, but we’ll get there in two weeks.) 1988 didn’t impress me very much — I think I was still discovering 1987 releases well into the following year. Like 1986, the resulting list just about represents many of the titles I still own from that year.

I may have to retool my perception — my current exploration of the catalog has unearthed a number of quality titles to which I had little access, and in one case, little interest.

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Austin Bait: Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, Buddy Miller go on tour

Now here’s an interesting show: Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin and Buddy Miller embark on a month-long tour dubbed "Three Girls and Their Buddy". I’d charitably call this kind of show Austin Bait — Griffin and Colvin are based in Austin, while Harris and Miller have performed here many times. Austinites love their singer-songwriter/alt-country types, and I’m surprised this tour doesn’t make at stop at the Backyard.

Get your Noise on

I’ve mentioned Alex Ross’ book The Rest Is Noise once or twice before, but if you haven’t been convinced to read it yet, check out this interview of Ross by Charlie Rose (28-minute video). The Rest Is Noise has garnered some serious accolades, including a nomination in the National Book Critics Circle Award and a listing in the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2007.

Before the book was published, I had already started re-exploring the music that shaped my college experience. After reading the book, that exploration picked up momentum. An examination of my most recent playlists shows a significant increase in modern classical titles. It’s nice to be making room for this music again.

And I’m not the only one.