Is this record worth a spin? Should I buy it? Will it add to or detract
from my credibility? Should I care?
I wish someone could break it down for me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fastest- Theme

An album of childlike wonder and mental anguish all rolled into one. Not really sure what to make of this, kind of like a cross between Daniel Johnston and a Harmony Korine movie.  Fastest is Tobin Konrad, a middle-aged guy from San Francisco, or Redondo Beach, who relies on programmed drum tracks and 80's synth notes made from a Yamaha keyboard. The San Francisco record shop Aquarius Records first reported on Fastest music when several CD-Rs were anonymously dropped off on their doorstep. The CD-Rs already had bar codes and an ASCAP logo laser-printed on them, apparently Konrad is very prepared to have his music licensed for sampling and soundtracks so he can begin to collect royalty payments. Cheesy video game synth lines (think Atari game system) propel most of the song's melodies while a standard 4/4 drum beat keeps time. Konrad occasionally turns his programmed beats loose, creating a chaotic vortex of percussive cacophony, like on the album's namesake "Theme".  He talk sings in a low breathy voice that resembles what a death metal vocal track would sound like before effects are added. Fastest also contains some classical guitar intros and interludes, as on "The Wind, intimating an idiot-savant James Blackshaw. YouTube videos show Konrad lip-synching into the camera while displaying close-ups of his Fastest CD covers/track lists or exploring San Francisco attractions (Coit Tower, Financial District, the Employment Development Department, MUNI buses).
Below is his facebook info page. He's got his own thing going on:
"Paul Williams production company Interactive licensing for graphic and music together although they must be series of loops for a 15 cent mechanical on each loop per mp4 .How nice people are really matters it might pay 3 to 4 dollars per play if the mp4 is real and it has that many tracked loops from ASCAP right same page the price is $340 from ASCAP and that includes any ASCAP members stuff. Amazing low price that is if you get the license from them ASCAP being a member I can only get a discount for you if I am notified via facebbook . Otherwise it could cost a million dollars more. So don't contact them first because I got them to wait until my business is done. Since I am there best offer for music licensing and the production company involved Wait youtube and Wait myspace at these sites linkedin doesn't realize that it's only gonna be $340 compared to who knows how much it could be with no mp3 additions thousands later for linkedin.linkedin better off having ASCAP represent web construction for mp3 players tracked by ASCAP on linkdin that would generate millions of dollars of music support money.
Gothic hip hopical.This genre on my 8th album is hip hop though other hip hop artists sound a bit like rap since I may be the first new Rhythm/Rock genre to have that Nelly /Tim Mcgraw sound (What is it really) sound, hit song background TV/Films material mellow though Circus sounding at it's best new Hip hop. A new way to understand, What are genres? I use Yamaha too. My upcoming hip hop album Fastest Earth (a down to earth album)Yamaha introducing one of a kind solo effort. 95% hip hop Nevertheless 5% (how did I make this) that original sounding,because thus 1000% Gothic hip hop
YES I think it is HH tk"

Buy this record if the voices in your head convince you to stroll the streets with a video camera after you've trolled an official Chris Brown fan page and propositioned big-bosomed internet ladies to license your music.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gomma All-Stars featuring Peaches- Casablanca Re-Works

German label reinterprets 80's hits from the Casablanca Records vault with the vocal aid of Canadian electro-rapper Peaches and two-time Grammy award winning keyboardist Harold Faltermeyer (he of Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun soundtrack fame). That alone should be enough to draw you in. Casablanca Records was founded in 1973 by Neil Bogart and quickly became a hugely successful label with acts as diverse as KISS, Donna Summers, Parliament, and The Village People. The label pioneered the extended mix single concept that would later be known as the 12" single, a conceit that is prominently utilized by the Gomma All-Stars.
Peaches plays it straight here, invoking the spirits of disco past. Four songs are featured here with an additional remix of each song to round out the disc. Moullinex tackles "Maniac" from the movie Flashdance, and also contributes an instrumental version of the song. Telonius provides a dub version to accompany his cover of "Our Love" from Donna Summer's best-selling record Bad Girl. The Stephanie Mills hit "You Can't Run From My Love" gets a fitting retooling from Munk and The Phenomenal Hand Clap Band break out the Skatt Brothers #1 1980 hit "Walk The Night" utilizing a, can you guess?, omnipresent hand clap percussion track. Casablanca Re-Works is a breezy affair that's all sequined pants and feathered hair, and a fitting tribute to the twilight years of Casablanca Records.

Buy this record as you amble through the aisles of Target looking for footless leggings.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Cambodian Space Project- 2001: A Space Odyssey

When I was last visiting Cambodia in 2007 I was very pleased to find a roadside music store (actually a shack) where I purchased several CDs from Cambodia's most notable music artist Sinn Sisamouth as well as some other "Cambodian Rock" CDs. The most widely recognized Cambodian vocalists, Sisamouth, Ros Sereysothea, and Pan Ron have appeared on a handful of reissued international compilations that have peaked the interest of avid music collectors and hipsters alike. These artists resonated with Western audiences because of their incorporation of four-piece rock sounds with traditional Khmer music. Many songs were fuzz-addled, psychedelic takes on well-known Western rock hits and they were punctuated by a particular vocal style that involved a throaty warble that was often high-pitched and treble heavy (this being especially true of female Khmer vocalists). Translated, or perhaps lost in translation, the track titles were often pretty humorous: "Don't Let My Girlfriend Tickle Me",  "Die Of Girl's Bottom", "Where Is Strange", "I Very Regret".
The Cambodian Space Project (CSP), like the Los Angeles based band Dengue Fever, are capitalizing/paying homage to their predecessors, but CSP are actually located in Phnom Penh Cambodia. The band consists of native singer Srey Thy, a former karaoke singer who grew up in a remote village outside the nation's capital, and a backing band made up of an Australian, a Frenchman, and a fellow Cambodian. They play mostly 60's standards but have been increasingly adding Thy's originals. Their debut 2001: A Space Odyssey contains two Thy compositions, "Mean Visa Kmean Bai (Have Visa, No Have Rice)" and "Pros Kangaroo (Kangaroo Boy)", which employs a jangly 80's guitar sound reminiscent of The Bangles. These are not expert players, more akin to a local bar band, but there is an exuberance to the playing, even though the subject matter often portends the political strife that riled Cambodia, eventually leading to the genocidal actions of the Khmer Rouge. Khmer music really proves the resilience and patent optimism of the Cambodian people in light of the unbelievable horrors they were subjected to. If not for the Khmer Rouge's systematic destruction of all art and intellectual property this music would have undoubtedly found a much wider audience.

Buy this record if you can't afford the trip to Angkor Wat but want to recreate the Tonle Sap in your bathtub.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jorge Ben- A Tabua de Esmeralda

One of the finest examples of Brazilian tropicalia ever produced, an absolute masterpiece. Jorge Ben is a legend in his native Brazil, but is probably best known in the states as the guy who successfully sued Rod Stewart for copping the riff from "Taj Mahal" for Stewart's hit song "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy". I can't do this record justice with my limited vocabulary, but suffice it to say that it's a beautifully beguiling, superbly sublime, and fantastically festive piece of work. This should be in every music lover's library.

Buy this record if you wanna make children sing, parents clap hands, and friends forgive your transgressions.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Circle- Taantumus

Circle have been kicking around the Finnish avant garde music scene for 20 years now. Their output has been prodigious, with 25 studio and 13 live records under their collective belts. The band has withstood several line-up changes, Jussi Lehtisalo being the one constant member, and produced a myriad of side projects (Ektroverde, Pharoah Overlord, Steel Mammoth). Circle have consistently bridged a chasm between prog-rock, improvisational jazz, krautrock, and heavy metal with an emphasis on repetitive melodies that are often hyper-propulsive and incredibly hypnotic. Most songs are instrumentals, but the band has been slowly adding more vocals, with mixed results. In 2011 Ektro Records reissued Circle's Taantumus on the 10th anniversary of its original release, re-introducing a linchpin that deftly melds all of their musical styles. I believe that Circle's 1999 release Andexelt is the finest, and most stylistically consistent record they've released, but Taantumus is a good place for listeners to get acquainted with one of Scandinavia's most enduringly progressive rock acts.

Buy this record as the Northern Lights flitter above ritualistic fire dancers.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

of Montreal- Paralytic Stalks

of Montreal evolved out of the Elephant Six collective (E6), a conglomeration of Louisiana musicians who relocated to Denver then Athens, GA to form the following groups: Apples In Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Minders, Elf Power, and Olivia Tremor Control. Most of these outfits have been making records for over 15 years now. of Montreal started off as a Beatle-esque pop band then morphed into a more dance-oriented glam outfit. Their singer, Kevin Barnes, presents an androgynous image, singing in falsetto, occasionally getting totally naked on stage. They can be very melodic and rather chaotic at the same time, the music often reaching the highest ADD/ritalin-addled heights, with kaleidoscopic signature shifts accented by multi-layered vocals that are dense and wordy. Psychedelic pop would be the most apt description for their music.
Several tracks on Paralytic Stalks, the band's 11th studio album, stretch past the 7-minute mark, with forays into symphonic string interludes, acoustic breakdowns, and Revolution #9 style mind melts. Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel has achieved major cult status outside of the E6 while Robert Schneider and his Apples In Stereo crew have veered closest to mainstream success, but it's been Kevin Barnes and of Montreal that have consistently produced the most interesting and challenging music from the collective.

Buy this record if you wanna check out the collective consciousness of the collective's contributions.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats- Vol. 1

Fuzzy, sludgy, distorted, and druggy debut release from Cambridgeshire, England trio. It's full of chunky riffage a la Black Sabbath, but with a decidedly more up-tempo, hook-driven bent that includes some rewarding free-form jams. Does a good job of capturing the haunted gloom of a British manse in the woods feel. There is definitely more on this record than you'd find from your typical doom/sludge act.

Buy this record to accompany the grilled cheese sandwich you've just taken down to the basement where a Call Of Duty game awaits while Faces Of Death plays on the back wall projector.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Terry Callier- What Color Is Love?

"Ordinary Joe" put him on the map, "Look At Me Now" turned him into a crate digger's must have, but What Color Is Love? stands as his magnum opus. Terry Callier began his career in Chicago as a folk singer in the 60's. He evolved to meld his jazzy folk sound with more traditional funk and soul music. He received some critical acclaim for his body of work but never achieved the commercial success that he frankly deserved. He was such a relative unknown that while working at The University of Chicago in the 90's (albeit well after the main arc of his music career), he was asked to play some reunion shows in Europe and his co-workers were in disbelief that he had ever played music at all. What Color Is Love? is really the culmination of the merging of all his musical styles, with the centerpiece being the stone cold epic "You Goin' To Miss Your Candyman", a slow building take on the traditional blues song "I Know You Rider", chock full of congas, vintage Chicago-style horn fills, and Callier's velvety smooth tenor. The sweetest song on the record, "Just As Long As We're In Love" display's the veracity of Callier's range and a beautiful coda with Callier and a female chorus reverberating, 'Just as long as we're in love we'll be alright". True words indeed, truer music.

Buy this record when you're laid up with the flu bug and need a little spiritual healing.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

West Indies Funk 3

Pretty funny and entertaining take on Caribbean music centered around the steel drum. This is the third in a three volume set put out by the Trans Air label. Most of the collection consists of loose and/or faithful renditions of soul and R&B standards. Standouts include: Sam & Dave's "Hold On I'm Coming" by Sapodilla Punch, Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine" by Original Tropicana Steel Band, as well as their "Funky Abbey Road", which is actually a confusingly named version of The Spencer Davis Group's song "I'm A Man". The crown jewel of this collection is Life's cover of "2001: A Space Oddysey". It really comes out of left field but knocks it out of the ballpark! DJs and mixtape makers will revel in this collection.

Buy this record and kick it with some jerk chicken and a Dragon Stout.


Demdike Stare- Elemental- Parts 1 & 2: Crysanthe & Violetta

Dirty, filthy, gritty ambient music from two British blokes (one is an avid record collector who reissues obscure music for the Finder Keeper Label, the other is a DJ/Producer on the British club scene)  who utilize sample snippets as foundations for their super-unnatural journeys. If there were a sequel to Blade Runner, Demdike Stare should be commissioned to make the soundtrack. On their last record, the auspiciously impressive Tryptych, they sampled songs from horror film soundtracks and cloaked them in a fog of analog hiss. As the title implies, Elemental has hints of naturalism interspersed throughout its industrial landscape and, in spite of its ambient nature, is patently aggressive, constantly shifting the listeners perceptions.

Buy this record if you danced your New Year's Eve away and need a Bloody Mary comedown on New Year's Day.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kim Novak- The Golden Mean

This French foursome, all dudes, have been traipsing around Europe for 6 years now perfecting their American sounding indie pop. They've blended together topical American pop sounds and regurgitated them on The Golden Mean. This is mostly peppy, non-descript music that wouldn't feel out of place on Gossip Girl. "Love Affair" is a clean take on The Strokes "Last Night", "Montego Bay" borrows from the Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah handbook. "Falling Apart" and "Monsters" are crooning ballads in The National's vein. You get the point...
I'm confused by a band that plays almost exclusively in France yet sings American lyrics. French xenophobes must be ripping their hair out right now.

Buy this record for a stroll down the Seine in your Ford F-150


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Led Zeppelin- Presence

Let's start off 2012 the way we ended 2011, with another classic rock band. For younger readers of this blog we'd like to introduce you to one of Led Zeppelin's signature records. Some may argue that Physical Graffiti was their magnum opus, but I would say it was Presence. The record was released in  early 1976, almost exactly a year after the release of their double album Physical Graffiti, and it's perhaps their darkest record. Robert Plant had suffered serious injuries from a car accident in Greece shortly before these sessions and would spend the entire recording process in a wheelchair. Plant maintains that his vocals on Presence were some of the weakest he's done while Jimmy Page claimed that this record contained some of his most inspired guitar work. In desperate need to get back to his family and overwhelmed by his physical limitations, Plant began to question his future with the band. Despite Plant's injury and the sprawling nature of the work, Presence was recorded and mixed in only 18 days, with Page doing the majority of overdubs in a single 24 hour period. The masterful 10-minute epic "Achilles Last Stand" opens the record in fine fashion with a haunting Page riff that also serves as the song's coda. Elements of "The Immigrant Song" and "Kashmir" pervade the song. The most straight-forward track, "Nobody's Fault But Mine", borrows a similar riff to the one found in the opening of "Achilles Last Stand" and contains a furious harmonica solo from Plant. It would become one of the only songs from this record to find its way into Zeppelin's live sets. Page's solo on "For Your Life" is particularly memorable. "Royal Orleans" employs the signature start-stops and guitar fills that defined the Zeppelin sound. The album was considered a commercial failure for Zeppelin, that is it only went triple platinum, due to the stripped down nature of the arrangements; there are no bells and whistles on this record, just guitar, bass, and drums. It was this combination of rawness, a compact recording schedule, and lingering emotional & physical issues that helped make Presence such a special record.

Buy this record to sail away, to touch the dream, to ride the wind, to laugh out loud.