Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Top 9 of 8

2008 has been odd. The first two months were spent living in NYC, raising my lifetime out-of-RI living to nine months. The last eight months have been spent working at a record, nay, toy store that I've had a twenty year history with. Along the way I've seen some shows, listened to some records (presently side 3 of Exile In Guyville), and generally thought about music, as I tend to do. And since this tends to be the time of year for lists, here's mine.

First, my criteria. The list is mostly recordings purchased in '08, but not restricted to recordings that came out in '08, and performances attended and I stayed away from anything I've typed about before. So..

9) The Police & Elvis Costello ~ Great Woods, July 31st
9) David Byrne & Brian Eno ~ Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

The Police/Costello show was epic for many reasons. For starters, I don't think I've ever known six months in advance that I was going to a particular show. Ever. Kyle texted me in January saying "Clear 7/31" He then informs me, by phone at this point, that the show is a birthday gift. So, the months pass, the show is thought about, forgotten, and suddenly here. I was in the situation of being the least responsible person, so I drank myself silly and got to see an artist and a band that I'd never seen before. Hot Damn!

Dear Brian,
Thank you for throwing us your scraps.
p.s. Tell David he did a pretty good job too.

8) The Residents ~ at the Fucking Mall!!!
As if my third Residents show wasn't a strange enough event on it's own, the show was at Showcase Live at Partiots Place. Yup, the giant fucking mall around the stadium formerly known as Foxboro. The notion started to really sink in upon hitting the parking lot and driving past all the huge brand stores, looking for the cinema multiplex.

7) East Village Opera Company
This disc was in the first employee purchase I made at my job. I adopted it for awhile as a pet record to sell at work. They (EVOC) then put out a new album this year. The combo of me selling the first album and having a new one earned them a header card in our mostly laughable classical section.

6) Dinaresade ~ Traditional Syrian
This one song from the box set Time of the Templars has been an iPod staple. There was a stretch this summer where I listened to this song almost everyday on my walk home from work, whistling out loud and drumming on my man purse.

5) Banter/3.1 ~ Medicinal Reverb
Oh no you didn't! Oh yes I did. While putting your own album on a year end best of list can seem a bit hokey, MedRev earns a place here for many reasons. First was the amount of time and effort that went into recording and mixing. Second, it is one of my proudest accomplishments ever, and certainly the best "album" I've recorded. And lately it has become an album that I simply enjoy listening to. One of the pleasures of making music is creating something that you enjoy.

4) My Morning Jacket ~ Evil Urges
Generally speaking, if someone tells me I should check out a certain band or album I don't listen. And yes, that sounds snobby, but I tend to be very good at discovering music on my own. However, Al mentioned My Morning Jacket and after listening to one and a half songs on MySpace I bought Evil Urges on vinyl. What a simply delicious album. Anyone who sings about sexy librarians and the interwebs is ok by me.

3) Mudcrutch ~ Mudcrutch
Of all the LP's I bought this year, this one is hands down the best object. Simply holding the thing is a pleasure. The artwork gives it the look of a lost album, which in a sense it is. Mudcrutch broke up in the early 70's without having recorded, and got back together to make this album. And the music kicks ass too. A bunch of old guys who know what they're doing layin' it down live in the studio. Sign me up!

2) An Evening of Charles Ives' Music ~ Central Presbyterian Church, NYC
Anyone who makes the mistake of mentioning Charles Ives in my presence is likely to get an hour long lecture. To say that I'm obsessed with Charlie is perhaps the understatement of the year. In January I got the chance to see an evening of his music at the church where he used to be the organist! Not only did that fact make it a special evening, but the performance was the best live Ives I've seen yet.

1) Patti Smith ~ Horses
One day at work Al handed me a pin that said "Horses changed my life." I deemed this most excellent and proceeded to wear it to work on a regular basis. Since this would frequently cause people to ask how horses had changed my life I came up with a series of mostly true stories involving horses and my life. This became the basis, or glue if you will, of a new, Banter related performance that I bagan working on. Now the truth of the matter, of course, is that the pin was a promo item for the Patti Smith album Horses which I don't believe I had ever heard. So a dl and an LP later I can say that is a truly outstanding record.

Well, there it is. The moments that effected me the most this year. Happy Listening.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lost in the supermarket

or at least in the comfort of my own home. Lemme 'splain. Like a refugee, I'm writing this from my old PC because my Mac won't turn on. I'm taking it in to the Apple store on Sat, but in the meantime I have no idea what to do with myself. The whole ordeal is scary in a few ways. Obviously there's the potential data loss, including basically all of the data for the new show I've been working on, but it's also scary how at a loss I am. I mean right now I'm doing exactly what I would be doing if the Mac was working; smoking, listening to music, & blogging/interwebbing. Yet I feel lost doing it. Part of that must be the anxiety over what the end result of this may be. Oddly, the PC which has been f*'ed for years, is behaving fine. So, I'm listening to Zeena Parkins ~ The Opium War. It's a radio play about well, opium, in NYC during the teens. Delicious Avante-Garde Over-the-Topness.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A journey of a couple of discs

Two very good friends of mine currently live in an apartment that I once inhabited. A lotta shit went down in that apartment, and it's more than a little surreal visiting them. ("See that nail in the chimney? That was there when I lived here. I had a picture of Zappa hanging on it.") The other day they stopped by my house and ended up borrowing a few discs, including some Bowie and Sebadoh. I realized after they left that those discs were all in my collection at the time I lived there, and are now making a journey into an apartment where they too once lived many years ago. I find it interesting that those same discs will fill the air within the same walls some thirteen years later.

*a note about the title: When I first started the Project I made an attempt to keep a journal about every single discs I listened to. Needless to say, that task failed. However, the first entry started like this: It began with Rabih Abou-Khalil. Theoretically, it will end with Zuco 103. A journey of a thousand plus CD's. The Great Listening Project.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lessons from the Project pt. 1

Over the last two years, three months, and seven days since I started the Great Listening Project I've learned a few things. Some of them are completely inconsequential, others have had profound philosophical impact. This new, semi-regular series will highlight those insights.

Tastes change. And of course I mean the obvious "I used to like Anthrax, now I like Radiohead," but I also mean that how we react to and interact with music changes. The criteria by which we deem something "bad" or "good" evolves as well. One inevitable result of listening to music all the time is an increased knowledge of at least the basics of theory and how music works in general, which leads to an appreciation of more technically sophisticated musics. But mood plays a part as well. Think of the way a specific song, album, etc.. can attach itself to a specific life event, be it "good" or "bad." And that opinion can change as one's feelings towards said life event change. Sometimes too it's just a general feeling. As I mentioned here, I've been feelin' the rock on vinyl vibe which means I'm more receptive to the Clash and Olivia Newton-John than I am to the William Parker disc I'm listening to right now. Another factor is surroundings, what you're being exposed to, voluntary or otherwise. Also, the process of discovery adds to a personal database of information, including who got what ideas from whom. "I used to think So & So was great till I heard Such & Such." And sometimes you just wonder "What the fuck was I thinking?"

Tastes remain the same. Some opinions really are forever. There are songs, albums, artists, etc.. that I will just plain dis/like for the rest of my life. Some of them because of their association with less than pleasant life events. For example. And all of the above factors (knowledge, surroundings, life events, etc..) can also influence the permanence of an opinion. Knowledge can reenforce an initial feeling. "See, I was right. This is good/bad." Same goes for being surrounded by people who share similar tastes. "We both, all, etc.. dis/like this. See, we're right."

Personally, my opinion seems to change from "bad" to "good" more than the other way around, and once something is considered "good" it tends to remain that way. Which could mean that I have no taste and think everything is ok, or that I seek the good in what I'm listening to.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A list, a bird, a days listen

Today I started Charlie Parker. I have 3 CDs, 5 discs worth of digital, and an LP, and started with the digital on my walk to work. Once there my boss told me that it was "oldies day" and I got to pick. What this meant was having about 150, mostly classic rock greatest hits discs to choose from. He was really just throwing me a bone because he knew I was going to end up staying open to close. Be that as it may it was still like blessed relief from the norm. The list starts with his selection, and eventually is taken over by the assistant manager. I bet the astute among you can figure out where DJ-ship starts to change.

Van Morrison
Grateful Dead
Dire Straights
Buena Vista Social Club
the Police
David Bowie
Led Zeppelin
No Doubt
Bob Marley
the Who
Now 7
Sheryl Crow

Then some more Bird on the way home, followed by Sun Ra & Eno records.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Clerical Error in Row 13

Sunday night I listened to most of William Orbit's Pieces in a Modern Style. By the time I turned it off I had three songs left so I put them on my iPod for the walk to work Monday. Last night I planned to (and did) paint the stairs while listening to the two Oranj Symphonette albums. Ooops.

The Orbit disc defines boring. Light classical pieces programmed (not performed) into MIDI and played back with lots of washy pads. No need to listen to that one ever again. Oranj, however, was a real treat to hear. I haven't heard the first one, Plays Mancini, "since the divorce" as the saying goes, but it was as fresh as if I had just heard it last week. Both albums did carry a certain flashback factor though. They were in such heavy rotation for me (and certain others) during a very specific time that listening to them brought up all sorts of memories. And as saccharine as Francis Lai's theme for A Woman and a Man can be, the Oranj version was like a tiny dagger in my heart reminding me of a long forgotten moment of pain.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's funny 'cuz it's true pt.2

I find it interesting that my recent vinyl obsession and my return to smoking (no, not cigarettes) have led me to a renewed interest in not only rock in general, but rock that is psychedelic and/or textural and/or expansive. As I've joked, less than 24 hours after I bought a bag for the first time in over a year and a half I also bought a Grateful Dead record. And while that certainly has the greatest comedic value, largely due to this post, a quick run down of recent purchases and acquisitions reveals this trend. On vinyl: My Morning Jacket, Apollo Sunshine, Pet Sounds, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (on the turntable right now), and digitally: Silver Apples, Spacemen 3, Can (I mean really, Can fer chrissakes!) Now, if I start to listen to Phish again you'll know I've really lost it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dual discos, and a potential new start.

When I first heard Pretty Hate Machine (probably '91) it was a revelation. Not only did I not know that you could make music that sounded like that, but I didn't know that one person! could do that. However, by the late nineties I wasn't really interested in anything but Jazz and lost track of what Mr. Reznor was up to. For the project I "got" and listened to the entire discography. First of all, it re-enforced my belief that re-mix albums blow. Take a decent song and make it go dikka-tsa, dikka-tsa? No thanks. As for the regular albums, the first two I enjoyed, although probably as much out of nostalgia as anything else, and the rest I thought were ok. I feel like NIN is a band I should like more, but I just can't get past the goth-esque "I'm so afraid of God" thing. There are moments here and there of musical or textural beauty, but the over-all impression (for me) is that I just don't care. That being said, I did really enjoy Ghosts (perhaps because it is instrumental) and am seriously contemplating buying it on vinyl despite the $45 price-tag.

Last week I went to Maine for a few days, and my entire ride up was the Nirvana discography. Even after this recent listening I have such mixed feelings about this band. Because they were good, but they were also overrated. And while Kurt was saddled with that "voice of a generation" tag, he was very much the embodiment of that moment. It's not that he, or his band, were extraordinary visionaries, more like they were the absolute stereotype of what was happening at the time. The first time I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was over the loudspeakers at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert (openers: Smashing Pumpkins (who I hated) and the completely unheard of Pearl Jam) and while I had been hearing buzz about Nirvana by then (Nov. '91) it was just another new good band, not some out-of-the-blue bolt from heaven. Now, in 2008, the still-played hits from these albums have the feel of classic rock chestnuts, which I guess they are. And none of my impressions of individual albums changed. I've always thought Bleach was overrated by people who wanted to pretend they were on the bandwagon earlier than they were. Nevermind is as poppy as they get. Incesticide, being a b-sides & rarities collection, has some hidden gems and some throwaways. In Utero is still my favorite, noisy and angry. And Unplugged revealed that some of their songs were actually good.

On a completely different subject, it looks like I'm going to be moving to Providence and going back to school. A confluence of forces have conspired to lead me to these decisions. The first is that Chris not only sort of has to sell the house, but also wants to move to someplace warmer. (He is, after all, old.) That made me look at my life and think about where, physically, I wanted to be. As he talked about Florida as an option I looked into Full Sail University, which has certain benefits, but then I'd have to move to Florida. As I started to think about school, I decided to look into URI, specifically the Continuing Education (or Old People's College as I like to call it) up in Providence. Then there is a social element. With Harry starting college this semester I'd have a sort of school buddy, even though we'll be at different campuses. Next is the fact that I'm now in the system at as220 and have the opportunity to grow that a bit more. And finally, Kyle has been dating someone who lives in Providence so he spends most of his time up there anyway. The other night he and I met after work and when I asked if he wanted to move to PVD he said sure.

All the chips are in place. Let's proceed.

So, I have. The other day I met with an advisor to get the ball rolling. He told me some things that I might have figured out on my own, but it was useful to hear from someone in an official capacity. And yesterday I filled out my application, mailed it along with my CCRI transcript and called my high school to have them send that transcript. Next week I plan to meet with a financial aid advisor, and perhaps the heads of a couple of departments. So things are moving forward. Future, here we come!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

RI's premiere dance band! (clap, clap)

I'm not really sure when I first met Harry, but I do remember the first time we really talked. It was at a bonfire at Jon's and we started talking about music. We liked a lot of the same music and in that regard at least he reminded me of myself as a teenager. Eventually he uttered a phrase that can strike fear into the heart of any music snob such as myself, especially when coming from someone in their teens. He said, "I'm in a band." Oh shit. His father, who I've known for a long time, was standing there and just so happened to have a disc of said band. Fucking great. With a physical disc in my hand I'd have no excuse for "forgetting" either the band name or the MySpace address. This disc sat on top of my stereo for at least a few weeks before I got around to putting it on. I expected to have to be diplomatic the next time I saw him saying something like "Not bad. Not my thing, but not bad." When I finally worked up the courage to listen to the disc I discovered that not only was is not bad, it was in fact good and is was my thing. Drums, bass, guitar, and ... saxophone? No vocals? Hot Damn! Sign me up!

My initial reaction to a Troop of Echoes was that they were on the right path, but weren't quite there yet. I debated with myself quite a bit as to whether I should jump in with a million suggestions or just sit back and watch them develop on their own. I like to think I've done a bit of both over the years.

They hate being called a Jazz-Rock band (mostly because, well, they're not) but it is an all too convenient starting point for describing their music. They're more like a somewhat noisy post-rock band that fired their singer and replaced him with a sax player with some serious skills. Add the occasional bit of synth for texture and you start to get the idea. The songs range from the beautifully melodic to screaming sonics to ass shaking grooves. The influences of several local RI bands from Hircine to Mahi Mahi are abundant without ever sounding like imitations. More like this is what they are listening to and absorbing.

Last Saturday was (I believe) the 15th* time I've seen them live and in an over-all sense easily the best. It was definitely one of, if not the biggest in terms of attendance and people actually paying attention and digging it. Over the course of those shows I've been able to watch them grow and mature into a truly amazing and original band. I can honestly say that while I started out as a friend of the bass/synth player, I've become a dedicated fan of the band as a whole. For starters the music has gotten tighter. The complex interplay between all four of them has more noticeable definition. The balance of sounds is distinct and nobody gets buried in the mix. The biggest difference though is that they have all become much more sure of themselves, both as a group and individually. They've become confident but not cocky, and they are clearly enjoying music they are playing.

*(I can count 14 shows with certainty, but feel like there's at least one more. They are far and away the band that I've seen the greatest number of times, but they still have awhile before catching up to the amount of stage time of the six times I saw the Grateful Dead.)

So far it has truly been a pleasure watching the band grow and watching their fan base grow along with them. On the eve of their "excursion" as they're calling it I wish them the best and look forward to hearing them develop even more in the future. I feel honored that I've been along for the ride.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Drinking with Harry

Sometime around '87 I went poking around in my father's record collection. There were some things that I listened to a few times but never really cottoned to (Quicksilver Messenger Service) some things I wasn't quite ready for (200 Motels) and some things that I loved and continue to listen to to this day (Klaatu, Harry Nilsson.) So what is it about Nilsson that caught my ear over twenty-one years ago and still delights me today?

The two albums that drew me in were Nilsson Schmilsson and Son of Schmilsson with their funny titles and strange songs like "Spaceman" and "Coconut." Add to that the fact that he *gasp* swore, and since they were my father's albums it was ok for me to listen to them. So, I would pedal around on my bike delivering newspapers with my walkman on humming "You're breakin' my heart." Twenty-one years later, not much has changed. I was able to get the majority of the Nilsson catalogue and listened to it on my iPod while walking to and from work.

Listening to Harry was like getting back in touch with an old friend you haven't seen for over a decade and discovering that you not only still like the same things, but have all sorts of new things to talk about as well. The two albums mentioned above, and to a lesser extent The Point, were the only ones I was really familiar with and they delighted me just as much as they ever did. But the real discovery for me was the rest of the catalogue. There are so many songs throughout that I found so completely wonderful. And there are some low points to be sure, (Pussy Cats, A little touch of Schmilsson in the night) but they were easily overshadowed by the good stuff.

Now to see if I can find the other few albums I couldn't get ahold of.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Banter is dead, long live the Banter!

As I start this entry I am sitting at AS220 about two hours before performing what I'm considering to be my last Banter/3.1 show. Harry has already weighed in on the subject, so here are my thoughts, etc..

To begin with, the reasons (yes, pun intended.) I've long since felt that the b/3.1 format has had some limitations about it and I've wanted to expand into other areas. Over the last year the b/3.1 style has been greatly refined, but working in it seems like just more of the same. Lately my attention has also started drifting back towards filmmaking, and in particular to the idea of creating an integrated art work (or works) which combine film, music, and possibly even acting. And then came the "Big Coincidence." Last year I started work on the 114 Song Box Set, releasing two new songs every week for fifty-seven weeks. At the outset I stated that as soon as I was finished with the 114 songs that I was going to stop working as Banter/3.1. Now I "pressed pause" on the box set a few months ago, however, today (July 28th) was supposed to have been the last day of the fifty-seven weeks and therefore the last day of Banter/3.1. Seemed like a sign to me.

The first major downside to ending b/3.1 may not be a problem at all, and is directly related to tonight's gig. I got this specific show through no effort of my own. Having played here before I was simply asked to play tonight. This is such a major change from a year ago where it seemed like I wasn't one of the "cool Providence people" and therefore couldn't get booked.

(At this point in writing my friends started to arrive so it is now a few days later)

In one sense it seems a shame to throw away this foot-in-the-door as it were, however, hopefully by the next time they come a-knockin' at my e-door I'll have a new project in the works (more on that later.) Another downside is that the current presentation is at a pretty refined point and can be done at a moments notice. But, I'm not particularly interested in doing that. I would rather make myself scarce for a bit while I work on the new thing and then roll that out when it's ready. (And I promise, I'll talk about "the new thing" before this blog is over) And finally, I'm starting to get some recognition as "Banter/3.1"* and moving away from that may be unnecessarily confusing. But, this is a chance I take. (*two days after I wrote that I got recognized as Banter while at work)

I was very pleased with the show. One thing that struck me as funny was that the first three acts (myself included) were one guy with a keyboard and a laptop. I'm going to refrain from writing about them because I liked one and didn't like the other and I'm going to leave it at that. The final band was a duo from Amsterdam called Controllar who really need to be seen to be appreciated. There was a decent turn out for a Monday night and a good time was had by all. Yeah.

So, what's next you ask? Well, the current show is the jumping off point for the next phase of the Banter Cycle. Basically what I'm thinking about is taking all of my talents/interests, throwing them into the blender, and searching for the balancing point where it all emulsifies. It will most likely include not only music and film, but acting, narrative story telling, and perhaps even DJ-ing. I plan on taking my time developing this, so don't expect to get any previews any time soon. Perhaps if I get offered a gig before "the new thing" is ready I'll see if CockSlap can play instead.

Now, who wants to join Banter the Band! ?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is she asking me to look at her tits?

To wit.

Heterosexual men tend to qualify themselves as being "leg men" or "breast guys" as a way of identifying which physical characteristic they find most attractive in the opposite sex. I will now use this as the basis for an imperfect metaphor for what people look for in music. Bear in mind that all my choices in this analogy ultimately reflect my sensibilities more than they unravel some deep human mystery.


"Breast Guys" are people whose primary concern is the lyrics. It's the most obvious, in-your-face asset, and the hardest to deny. I mean really, who doesn't like a good, um, lyric. Although many will disagree about what makes for a good, um, lyric, there is fortunately enough variety to keep everyone happy.

Now "Leg Men" are a more rarefied lot. I liken them to those for whom the music is most important. Legs are, after all, the support upon which we stand. There is a more subtle beauty to be found here, one that can speak to a deeper place.

As for me, the most important thing is the face, which I will liken here to the over-all sound. Why, you ask, does the face equal sound? Because it's my damned metaphor, go get yer own.


Yesterday I was listening to Joanna Newsome's Ys. The first thing I noticed was the lovely sound of the work. The way her voice weaves through her playing coupled with the wonderful support of Van Dyke Parks' production makes for a beautiful disc. However, the words, and there are a lot of them, seem to be the real focus of this work. And as I pondered this music, and this bizarre metaphor, I was left with one question. "Is she asking me to look at her tits?"

*used with acknowledged debt to K.V.jr.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Alphabetically speaking

I'm exactly halfway through the project. I finished "M" this morning.I have no idea where that puts me in terms of disc count or over-all real time.

Woke up this morning...

..with Hannah Montanah stuck in my head. Life's just not fair.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Nominal Coincidences

Most of my free/thinking time has been about the new film idea. While doing some research I came across some interesting name coincidences. First, I discovered a Colonial Era composer by the name of Justin Morgan. Also, since the film may involve some form of time-travel (due to the anachronistic notion of the colonial synth-rocker) I decided to read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, whose central character is Hank Morgan. Additionally, the book I'm reading about the history of music in New England makes several references to the Newport Mercury, which has been in publication since 1758 (albeit with a rude interruption for the American Revolution;-) and in whose pages I have appeared on more than one occasion. Several of the Mercury citations are taken from a book by Henry M. Booth. (Henry M.? Hank Morgan?)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

An interesting snag

After filing a decent chuck of new-ish stuff I noticed that the next disc up is the newly purchased Nico Muhly disc, and not the Gordon Mumma, as previously reported.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

All I hear is

Here's a potentially not-so-little update on what I'm listening to these days.

To start, the actual "Listening Project" proper, as it were, has been dragging its heals. One reason, mentioned previously in this blog, has been the presence of so many artists that I want to take my time with. Along side that, is that time has been short what with working and all. The other, and possibly bigger, problem has been the lack of a system. When the project started I was commuting to Providence, so I had my car time as project listening. Then last summer I was painting a house in the woods and had all that time to devote to the project. I currently have no system, so things are moving slower. Next up: Gordon Mumma.

Today (or yesterday if I don't publish this before I go to bed)* I basically bought and/or ordered 17 discs. Here's the break-down: 2 I had ordered awhile ago via Amazon and they hadn't come in yet. I called and they are re-sending them. They are Nico Muhly~Speaks Volumes, and Joe Jackson~Rain, the latter of which is the only non-classical disc. Through work I ordered two new releases from Naxos, an Ives and a Varese. And what really kicked things into over-drive was the fact that B&N brought back their buy two get one free sale. So. Online I ordered Time of the Templars (3 discs set) a Lou Harrison disc, and a Ruth Crawford Seeger disc. At the store I bought, Monteverdi (2 disc) Carl Nielsen (2 disc) Steve Reich~Early Works, Kronos Quartet~Early Music, Terry Riley~The Cusp of Magic, and Philip Glass~Symphony #2. The Monteverdi and Templars discs are really representative of my increased interest in early vocal music.

And now, for what I'm being forced to listen to.

ay ya yay ya ay....

At work we listen to mostly crap. I knew this going in. I mean, god forbid we should be a music store that plays cool music. And we listen exclusively to full albums, so you know within a few seconds what the next 40-60 minutes is going to be like. There are a few discs we play that I like, mostly leaning towards the old-guy-rock category. Mudcrutch (Tom Petty's old band) Robert Plant & Allison Krauss, the new Bruce Springsteen. Although some in that range are pretty boring. Steve Winwood sounds like he's been dusting off his old Dead records, and Van Morrison sounds like a Cialis commercial. The most telling moment on the Van disc is when he literally sings "Blah, blah, blah..." for about a minute. The biggest, and most annoying, category we listen to is the female pop singers. Musically, most of them are just a highly produced beat and female voice with very little music. Almost all of them have these moments where the singer hits the highest, loudest, longest note she's capable of. Why? Why is that necessary? Most of them I find to be indistinguishable, except for the fact that I'm starting to learn which songs are certain singers. And the worst offenders are the old broads. Mariah? Who let the dolphins out? Madonna? Hard Candy is basically an admission that her music no longer gets played anywhere other than gay night clubs. The disc I probably like the best right now (at work) is Duffy. She's exploring the same 60's territory as Amy Winehouse, but without the drunken bad girl attitude. I just hope I don't get burned out on it, like I have with Amy (which I like, but we listen to too much.) Now if I could just get Hannah Montana out of my head....

*So I started writing this on Thursday, and I'm just finishing and publishing it on Sunday. Most of the discs I've gotten are pretty damn good, but I have to say that the Nico Muhly disc is quite possibly the most amazing thing I've heard in quite some time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A little past, some present, and a bit o' future

Last Friday was an interesting gig up in New Bedford. It started out as a double gig with both Banter/3.1 and CockSlap on the bill. Also on board was a noise band called Chaos Character. About a week before the show, Harry texted me to say that House on Fire had been added to the bill. A few days later I got the poster from the promoter and it listed a band called Cyanide Dependency, but no HoF. The day of the show Harry talked to Jason (the promoter) and C.D. had dropped out so they re-added HoF. We get to the show and it's a slowish night. The guy from C.C. was whining to Jason about the attendance, saying he didn't want to play, wah, wah, wah... Harry goes on first and during his set Jason and I decided that b/3.1 will go next and then CockSlap, and that he's making the other guy wait because he's pissing him off. Somewhere during either my set or the CS set the other guy just left, so the entire night ended up just being me and Harry.

As far as the performances were concerned, over-all pretty solid. Harry's House on Fire set was good. A few lost moments, but some interesting surprises as well. My Banter/3.1 set felt very comfortable, but not so much so that it became boring. And CockSlap was way more fun than we had anticipated. I wish we had gotten pictures of Harry in his spelunking head-lamp.

Skipping ahead to the future, I have decided what my next big project is. For right now all I'm going to say is that it is a five part silent film with an all original soundtrack. It will most likely revolve around the character of the Colonial Synth-Rocker.

And now, for now. What may be the most interesting thing for me currently is working on a children's website. Eh? Lemme 'splain. Through work I've re-met this guy Chris who lives above the store next door. Chris is an old punk rocker and a graphic designer. He's currently working on a flash animation website for kids, but funky, like for kids whose mom's have tattoos. The site will have a musical element to it as well. We met the other day in his studio and he wants me to help him out with the project. We didn't discuss any specifics about what I'd be doing (composing? engineering? both?) or about financial compensation, but I figure that stuff will work itself out eventually. If nothing else it will give me a way to keep my skills active. Additionally, this will give me the opportunity to learn Logic. He has a Pro Tools set-up, but he also just got Logic which has a very nice set of integrated virtual instruments. and since you can use Reason inside of Logic, but can't use Logic's instruments inside of Pro Tools I'm suggesting that he just keep it all in Logic and I'll learn that program.

So there you have it. Soon I'll try to post a blog about what I'm listening to.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

...the Musical!!

So, the work report. Since the beginning of the month I've been working in a record store. It was not without hesitation that I applied for this job. I've had a love/hate relationship with this particular store for about twenty years now, but I knew when I saw their ad that I could walk in and get hired. When I "interviewed" my boss actually said "You've worked for us before, so you know what you're getting into." How's that for an admission of being impossible to work for? Another downside is working for a retail wage again (oof) but still don't think I'm ready to go into a restaurant job yet. And of course, there's the fact that I would much rather be doing something related to what I just spent nearly six thousand dollars learning. (more on that some other post) However, there are some positive aspects to my job.

To start with, I really like most of my co-workers. I'll refrain from discussing any of them by name or in detail in this public forum, but suffice it to say that they are good people. Another thing that I really enjoy is the standing-around-talking-about-and-selling-music part of the job. It feels good to put my knowledge to some degree of use and to maybe turn someone on to something they've never heard before. Plus I had forgotten how much of a good salesman I am. I can often tell a complete stranger "You should buy this" and they do. And yes, people do still buy music. In fact, we have a vinyl section and that sells quite a bit. On the other side of things, we have all sorts of Krap with a capital K. That part gets really annoying because it's the kind of stupid small junk that you have to constantly straighten out and watch over kids as they sit there and play with it forever (with no real intention of buying it.) And some of that junk sells, but mostly it distracts me and the other sales people from actually helping customers who want to buy music. I consider it a wasted 15-30 minutes if I'm hovering over the wig section, making sure people don't take pictures, knowing they're not going to buy one, when I could be helping someone find a Hawkwind album, or turning someone on to Django instead. Another down side is the majority of the music we listen to in the store. Again, this was something I knew going in, but boy-oh-boy is there a lot of garbage. I just take comfort in the fact that the moment I punch out, the iPod goes on and I can listen to something good.

And one final thing, which is, as Uncle Bill once said, "Neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so," is the fact that this puts me in a noticeable position within the community once again. I had spent the last two plus years slipping from the view and even trying to escape this town, and now I'm back in a fishbowl where anyone who happens to wander in can see me. But that will have to wait for another post, as I now must get ready to go see Pete's recital. And beside, two posts in twelve hours after two weeks of nothing... what more do you want from me people!!???

Friday, April 25, 2008

Do not go quietly

So I've spent the last couple of weeks listening to lots of Morphine. Which is not to say that there is a lot of material, but that I listened to all of it multiple times. It's basically impossible for me to be objective about this band. They were a huge part of my life during some very significant times, were one of the best live bands I've ever seen, and since Mark Sandman died nearly a decade ago, that moment in time is gone, thereby making it an even more treasured memory. I really shouldn't even be writing about them, all I'll end up doing is gushing. I will say this one, non-musical thing: the very next disc in my collection, Joe Morris Quartet ~ A Cloud of Black Birds, features Jerome Dupree, the original drummer for Morphine.

Thoughts on the AS220 gig. Over-all I was very pleased. There were about 30 people there, which wasn't bad for a Monday night with four bands that nobody's ever heard of. A good turn out from my friends, and I think more people watched my set than any other that night. The positive reception seemed to be genuine, (including direct feedback from said friends) and the video element worked as well as I had hoped. Which has actually gotten me thinking about what my next step is, both in terms of output and performance. The biggest question I'm looking at right now is "What exactly is a b/3.1 performance?" As I move towards a more integrated film/music experience, I wonder if I'm creating a film to be marketed as such, or am I creating a live musical performance that happens to have a visual. To create something that I present as a "film" is not such a bad idea. Lots of people in this community know me as a "filmmaker." In fact tonight at work someone asked me if I was working on any new films. On the other hand, music gigs are a way to gain new audience. Another thought that has been in my mind lately is that perhaps I should concentrate more on the studio music than the live music. As a solo performer I have to either work with backing tracks (as I've primarily done up till now) or create systems for triggering, looping, etc.. in order to make a passable "live" performance. With a film, I can take my physical self out of the picture, as it were, and ask the audience to just concentrate on the images and the sounds. I think ultimately (or, at least right now) I'm less interested in sound that can be re-created every night, and more interested in sound that can be perfected to the best of my current abilities. Which is somewhat ironic, considering my love of improvisation, but perhaps that love was meant to open the doors to different sound worlds. Perhaps what I love the most, what I strive for, is to start with the freedom of improvisation, to capture it as the fleeting moment it is, and to then manipulate and massage it into something even more beautiful. In other words, I want to be Wah Wah, with an accompanying film.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Film at Eleven

Just a few snippets about what's on the horizon.

Project-wise I'm about to do Morphine. I do not go lightly into this territory. The importance of this material in my life both past and present can not be overestimated. The likely ensuing review will be anything but objective, although may contain some interesting personal insights.

On the Banter front, I have my first as220 show in less than a week. I had been trying for the better part of a year to get a gig there to no avail. Recently, Harry mentioned that they have a new booker and I should try again. So, I filled out their stupid online form again and, surprise surprise, they got back to me within a day and offered me a spot on April 14th. One of the other funny aspects is that my friend Daniel, who I've played shows with before, was already on the bill for that night. Aside from the fact that this show might be good exposure for me (crosses fingers) there are some other factors in my looking forward to it. For starters, it will be my first Reason-based gig. And the other main thing is that I will be adding a visual element to my performance. For the last few weeks I have been working on an ambient video that will be projected behind me as I play. Today I sat down and watched the video while listening to a mock-up of the set and I have to say, I think it works. And not to get too far ahead of things, but I think this might be the next evolutionary step in the Banter Cycle. What I'll be presenting on Monday is sort of random, but next on the plate is to more tightly integrate the music and the images.

And finally, I'm back to work. ...yeah... Not crazy about it ("it" in this case being both the place and the idea) but it will suffice for now. Perhaps as I get deeper into that particular mud I'll give a more detailed report.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Oh what sounds!

Here are some miscellaneous musings on some musics I've been listening to.

First up, the main project. I'm one (eighteen minute) track away from completing Mood Processor, which was me and Kyle. There were two main varieties of MP, Mood Processor proper which was Kyle on acoustic guitar and me on tenor sax, and The Electric Mood Processor which was fun with the four-track and whatever/whomever we could get our hands on. In either instance we played what we called "Plook Grok," so you can see that my love of made up genres goes back a ways. The one definitive statement I can make about MP is "We sure did get the good drugs back then." Yowza.

I also just recently finished Thelonious Monk, which I really took my time with. I've always been a big Monk fan and it was nice to spend some time with that particular crazy man. I think the biggest surprise for me was the solo piano stuff. Listening to that I got a sense of the entire history of Jazz. It swings, it's often based on popular tunes, and yet it's deconstructed, dissonant, and somehow entirely listenable. At one point during January I went into a Starbucks and they were playing a Monk track and I thought how odd it is that this music, which is really quite challenging if you really listen to it, is being used as background music for my corporate coffee experience. What's next? Ives at Dunkin' Donuts? Messiaen at Petco? (extra nerd points for anyone who can identify the logic in those two examples)

And now, to work my way through commenting on some choice-based listening, yet going about it chronologically in terms of the technology.

You spin me 'round like a rekkid baby
For the first time in years I have a) easy access to my vinyl collection, and b) a turntable in my office. Let the Easy Listening begin!! A huge portion of my records came from thrift stores at a time when I was very interested in lounge music. And I have to say, I will freely admit to actually liking 50's and 60's Easy Listening. Enoch Light, Bert Kaempfert, Dick Hyman, Jackie Gleason... Oh yeah, bring it on. I also seem to have a sizable collection of Moog albums such as Switched on Country and Everything you ever wanted to hear on Moog but were afraid to ask. And I've been listening to a fair amount of quote good unquote albums/artists such as Joe Jackson, Eric Dolphy, Wayne Horvitz, the afore mentioned Monk, and (right now) Joni Mitchell.

I meant it when I said I got "all kinds" a' tapes
It's back to the Soccer-Mom-Mobile for me for a bit, which means (oh the horror!!) cassettes. Among these terrifying little plastic creatures we find my collection of Rhode Island death metal bands from the early nineties. So far I've listened to two of the five such tapes I have. It made me realize why I roll my eyes and get immediately bored with current hardcore/metal type bands. 'Cuz this shit was boring over fifteen years ago, and hasn't progressed much since then. Does that make me a grumpy old man? I don't care if it does.

Totally 'pod-dular!
As mentioned in the previous post, I've recently "gotten" some things. Some of this has been music I used to have/listen to (R.E.M., Led Zeppelin, etc..) but some of it has been filling in gaps in my knowledge. For example today I listened to the Genesis album Trespass for the first time....ever. As I did I realized that I was/am only familiar with Selling England by the pound and The lamb lies down on Broadway for Gabriel-era Genesis. Likewise, I've had a renewed interest in Pink Floyd and only really know Dark Side and the Wall. So sad. And I've discovered that it's a bad idea to listen to "sing-along" albums (i.e. albums that I like to sing along to) on my iPod as I end up looking like a crazy person as I walk along mouthing the words and/or mumbling them and/or straight-up signing them. (although I use the term signing loosely) Oh well, maybe I am just one of "those people."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Honor among thieves

I've been thinking a lot about the download issue. To start on the personal level, I would like to sell CDs to people. However, is it better to let people simply have the music for free (such that they are actually listening to it) and to then make money in some other way? At my upcoming shows I will be trying out the "Pay-what-you-think" approach to selling the new disc. (On a side note, the new disc, Medicinal Reverb, is going to be the only one available.) And while the idea of earning some cash from CDs is very appealing, ultimately I think it would be better to have more listeners.

Another thing that got me on this issue was reading The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen. It's been quite some time that I've enjoyed reading a book based on the fact that I totally disagreed with the majority of what the author had to say. Throughout much of the book he comes across sounding like "We can't let the serfs have too much of anything, they don't know what's good for them! We need mainstream media to tell us what is right and good!" You know that anyone who uses the terms "cultural gatekeepers" and "Fox News Group" in even the same paragraph is an asshole. (oops, it looks like I just did ;-) And when it come to downloading, he takes the hardline "It's stealing" approach. But sometimes the more important question, at least to me, is from whom?

To illustrate: I've recently managed to, um shall we say "obtain," some music. Specifically, Brahms, Stockhausen, and Led Zeppelin. To work backwards, I did at one time years ago legally own the entire Led Zeppelin catalogue, so they've gotten my money. Additionally, the approximately $150 not spent probably means a hell of a lot more to me than the couple bucks of that that would trickle down to Robert Plant. Among the Stockhausen, I got a copy of a recently released version of Stimmung. This disc I will buy soon because a) I want the liner notes, and b) it will help support the performers. Had I not had the opportunity to hear this work before purchasing, I might have put my money elsewhere. And lastly we come to the Brahms.

The other day Chris and I were in the kitchen, talking before dinner. He mentioned that there was a particular recording of Brahms Piano Concerto no.1 by Leonard Bernstein and Glenn Gould that he wanted to hear. As it happened, that was one of the albums I had "obtained" recently. Now obviously, the work itself is in the public domain, but the performance may still be under copyright. Which made me ask, "What's more important? That I get to hear this, or that some grandchild of Bernstein gets 40 cents from my purchase?" This in turn led to another question, which is why is there no equivalent to the museum or the library for music? Now granted, libraries do tend to have music sections, but they are small and unreliable in terms of stock. I can walk into any library and most likely be able to get a copy of Norbert Weiner's Cybernetics, yet if I want to hear Carl Ruggles' Sun Treader I'm probably not going to be able to get it there. (incidentally, I can't even find a torrent of that work)

And as with all things lately, this leads me back to good ol' Charlie. Ives was very much against copyrighting his material, even flying into a rage when Henry Cowell copyrighted one of Charlie's pieces for him, saying "This music is not to make money but to be known and heard. Why should I interfere with its life by hanging on to some sort of personal legal right in it?" Exactly. I want to hear and know the music. All of it, or at least as much of it as I can absorb in a lifetime. And since there isn't a resource that I can reliably (and legally) simply hear whatever I want, I am forced into a life of crime.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Got a minute?

About a year ago I joined an organization called the Electronic Music Foundation (EMF) I'm still not quite sure what the benefits of being a member are, but it was a one time lifetime fee, so whatever. A couple of months ago I noticed, via their mailing list, a call for entry for sixty-second works. The 60X60 Project by Vox Novus, is a touring concert presenting sixty, one-minute long recorded works by sixty different composers. I thought, "Well shoot, I can do that!" And so today, I did. I sat down around 3pm, launched the Tool as I like to say, and started working. A few hours later I emerged with an almost stereotypical b/3.1 piece. Synthesizers? check.. Pattern sequencer? check.. Dulcimer? check.. Mellotron flutes? check.. Improvisation? check.. I have about two weeks before the disc has to be in the mail, so perhaps I'll make another minute long song or two before then. Or perhaps not.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

God Damn Maria

I spent about nine hours today trying to get the mix right for Good Night Maria to no avail. Tomorrow I'll work on my entry for 60X60, which is a call for sixty second long works.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Directions in Blogging

This year has already been off to an interesting start, but before I delve into that, I have an announcement regarding this blog. This will no longer be just about the listening projects. While I will continue to make the occasional post about that (currently Thelonious Monk, for those who care) this spot on the interdial will be more of a catch-all blog for me. Now, to re-cap the year, and illustrate what has led to this decision.

The year started in NYC. I was there to take a Pro Tools certification course (which I did) and to find a job (which I didn't). So, it was back to RI. This was obviously not an easy decision to make, since I really liked the city and was hoping to stay. I guess I had unrealistic expectations about being certified. Like "Here's your piece of paper and here's your job." More like "Here's your piece of paper and here's your t-shirt."

But, I did learn some things about my craft. I also realized that yes, I do want to live in NYC, and that what I really want to do is just make music all day. (Well, maybe go for a walk in Central Park every so often.)

So here I am, back in the Shitty-by-the-Sea, jobless and broke. What's a bloke to do? Step one is obviously to find some form of employment. Currently I'm looking at a dazzling lack of options. Tomorrow I'm going to see if I can find a job somewhere as a butcher. (I'm actually not kidding.) I have absolutely no experience in this field, but I've been interested in developing a more personal relationship with the food I eat, as well as learning more about animal raising/slaughtering practices and making better choices about the food I subsequently eat. And besides, I really don't want to wait tables ever again. Of course, I'm also looking into RI studios. So far most seem to be run by the one or two people who own them. I have gotten one "Thanks but no thanks" message, and one studio does want me to send them a demo reel. One advantage RI does have for me is that I can better afford to take a low-to-no pay position, provided I am getting some income somewhere.

What does this all add up to and what does it have to do with the alphabet? Well, to answer the second question first, nothing. I just happened to already have this blog. The biggest thing to come out of all of this is I've decided to finally get serious about having a music career. The over-all quality of my music has made such improvements over the last four months and I feel like I can put out a product that is uniquely me while at the same time being something that people might actually want to listen to. I've been working hard on my new album, Medicinal Reverb, and should have it ready within a month, and I have to say, I'm very proud of it. Also, I've been making a renewed effort to get gigs, which has already resulted in two upcoming shows. I've also been thinking a lot about promotion and different things I can do to get my music out there. The new focus of this blog is a result of that thinking. Here I will track the ups and downs of this journey. Who knows, maybe some day you can say "Dude, I've been reading that blog since he only had four readers."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A milestone

Having been away from my physical cd collection for a few months, I didn't notice right away that I hit a milestone recently. My cd's are held in two shelf units, and as of the second Mingus disc I moved on to the second shelf! Zoiks.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's a shiny day and the dog shit smells like strawberries

I think it may be true that every line in 50 Gallon Drum by Buck 65 may make for a good blog title.

Anyway, last week I spent several sunshiny days wandering around Central Park listening to the dozen or so Charles Mingus albums I own. To say that Mingus made some good music is like saying that sex can feel good. "Gee mister, are you some kinda rock-it scientist?" No great surpirses for me, Mingus really has it all. From the raw power of Haitian Fight Song to the heart-crushing beauty of Self Portrait in Three Colours, and sometimes all within one song (Scenes in the City.) The only real discovery for me was realizing how little I knew the album Mingus Dynasty. I was left with one question; How is it that I relate so strongly to the music of a mentally disturbed black man from half a century ago?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Side project

So for a few months I've had a side project that I haven't even mentioned here, but I'm almost done with. This post will be a review of the whole bloody thing.

I got all kinds a' tapes
When I was at WRIU I would frequently tape my shows. As a result I have literally hundreds of hours of these shows. In 2001 I created a show called Last Century in Jazz, the idea being to present a chronological review of the first one hundred years of Jazz. I organized the show by decade, spending a few weeks exploring each before moving to the next. One of the great things about these tapes for me is I used a lot of music from the 'RIU library, so there's a ton on music that I don't have otherwise.

Goodbye Sunny :(
Late last summer, my car died. I was able to borrow a car that only had a tape deck, so I decided to listen to Last Century in Jazz since it represented the chronological approach that I find so interesting. I found it fascinating to listen to the arc and growth of the music over the years. The one thing that seems to expand the most is the over-all variety. Earlier Jazz does have variety, but one needs to listen at a very fine level to hear the differences between artists or sub-styles. Casual listening will only reveal a general rikky-tikky-tik sound. Similarly, as the music drifts towards noisier, free jazz styles, the same subtlety of listening is required to hear more than just skwonk-skweedly-squeal.

To pat myself on the back, I played lots of good shit on that show. That's been the main treat in listening to these tapes. In a world where time is not an issue I would love to back-up and catalogue these shows, if for no other reason than creating a cd/record wish-list. (author goes in search of Marzette Watts...) There have been so many times that I've been blown away by a particular piece of music and then thought "Oh yeah, so-and-so" when I heard the announcement saying who it was.

"Apparently there's some chaos going on out there in the world, so you want to watch out for that.."
My show was on Tuesday mornings, 9-11am. This meant that I was on the air the morning of the Sept. 11th attacks. I had no idea what was happening and went about my show in the usual fashion, i.e. getting stoned at 8:30am on my way in and making inappropriate wisecracks on air "What would a guy with a name like Steve Swallow want for someone to hold against him?" Even after I had some idea of what was happening I still made cracks like the one in bold. This is the show that I listened to most recently and it was extremely hard to listen to. That's pretty much all I can say about that. There are only two more shows before the infamous "Mutha-Fucka" incident, and then this side project is over.

OK, that's all for now. Two blogs in one day after four months of silence should be enough.

What a slacker...

Jeez, it's been awhile. I'm not even going to attempt to talk about any of the music I've listened to since my last post, but I will give an update on where the project is and make a renewed attempt at maintaining this blog, once again!

Prior to the holidays I listened to Olivier Messiaen, including all the discs that Christopher has. I also managed to *coughs*get*coughs* a seventeen disc Messiaen set around that same time. Now, one of the problems with classical-type stuff is ordering things chronologically. It's not as easy as rock records where, say for example, Rubber Soul comes before Revolver, period. First of all individual discs may have compositions from across a number of years. Also, there's the problem of revisions. For example, does one listen to the Turangalila Symphony in 1948 when it premiered or in 1990 when its final revision was published? I ultimately decided to do Messiaen in three chronological sweeps. First up was the four disc organ works set. These disc represented his complete organ works up to the point they were recorded, presented chronologically, so they had their own logical time sequence. Next I went through all of the discs Chris and I have, doing my best to organize them in a reasonable order.

At that point it was mid December and I knew I was a) getting an iPod for xxxmas, and b) moving to NYC but not bringing my cd collection for at least a few months. I decided that I would move the project to the digital realm, starting with the Messiaen set. Since I had a bit of time between finishing the physical Messiaen discs and when I moved to the city I pushed forward with the actual collection. I made it up to Paul D. Miller (better known as DJ Spooky) After I finish the Messiaen set I will resume with the Miller disc, Viral Sonota. (and I'll try to review that one here)

As for Olivier: wow. Truly amazing all the way through. Yesterday I listened to the entirety of From the canyons to the stars.. while wandering around Central Park in the snow. Interesting to listen to music that at times imitates the sound of wind blowing while being outside on a windy day and having to wonder if it's the music or reality. There's also something wonderfully surreal about riding the subway with the sound of organ music blasting directly into your skull. Oh I'll stand clear of the closing door please! Of course, sometimes that doesn't work out so hot, like the time I was trying to listen to a particularly quiet and beautiful passage and a two piece mariachi band set up right next to where I was sitting.