Underworld’s Dubnobass 20th Anniversary – Mini-Documentary

In celebration of Rick Smith and Karl Hyde’s 20th anniversary tour of their mk3 debut album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Underworld has posted a 15-minute mini-documentary featuring new interview footage of the boys looking back on the album and its creation.

During the interview, Karl recalls one of his most memorable moments being when they were featured on the cover of Melody Maker magazine in 1994, “the rock paper that I bought as a little kid to read about my heroes!”

I was lucky enough to secure a copy of the original issue to frame in my studio along with my favorite signed prints and postcards from Tomato’s brilliant legacy of groundbreaking design.

For those curious about the write up but not mad enough to order a copy from the UK, you’re in luck – click the two images below for high-resolution archived scans of the cover and the original article.

underworld-on-the-cover-of-melody-maker-22nd-january-1994

push-interviews-underworld-22nd-december-1994And check out the mini-documentary, parts I and II below.

Published in: on November 19, 2014 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mike Doughty: Please Stop Making Music.

Sad news my friends. For nearly a decade Mike Doughty has spent his post-Soul Coughing era immersed in folksy-acoustic guitar dementia, collaborating with Dave Matthews, (I know… I know…) and essentially recording the same exact half-spoken melody with the same percussive 6-string strumming album after album.

soul-coughing-frontman-mike-doughty-releases-circles-an-album-of-the-bands-songs-as-he-meant-them-to-be You haven’t missed anything, and now, after his bottom-of-a-well ran dry, he’s taken to rehashing the Soul Coughing hits he’d previously sworn not to entertain since his going-clean.

Here’s his latest video – a thoroughly post-modern ironic mimic of his former hit, “Super Bon Bon,” stripped of the energy, edginess, and the jazzy funk of the original.

The album comes complete with typographical cover art which was hip and artful back when XTC did it for their album, Go 2 in 1978.

Mike-Doughty--Circles-Super-Bon-Bon-Sleepless-album-cover

R-520499-1238477972

R-520499-1238478000

Cue the contrived low-budget filters, green screens, slow-mo footage of random objects in motion, and lifeless audio.

Sorry Mike. You were a whole lot better on drugs.

Published in: on November 15, 2014 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Top 550 Artists and Composers of 2014

An incredibly productive Saturday indeed!  I was introduced this week to the web-based presentation software, Prezi and set myself a challenge -

I would take my first-ever exercise in data visualization (created using Excel and my first attempt at using the Gephi software tool), import it into Prezi, animate it with an audio bed and narration, and work out how to manually export it to a shareable video for Innerspace Labs.

In just over 6 hours I drafted a script, recorded and segmented it to function in the presentation, taught myself the software, and did a bit of post-production to tidy things up.

Below is the result of this project.  (Best-viewed in fullscreen.)

Published in: on November 2, 2014 at 12:23 am  Comments (1)  
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Classical Deutsche Grammophon Endulgence

Another magnificent day for music!

In the waiting room at an appointment today, the radio was tuned to the classical station and I really enjoyed a piano sonata by Beethoven.  Admittedly a laymen when it comes to classical, I was bitten by the bug and decided to investigate further.  Given my limited knowledge of the genre, I set my sights on the tried-and-true Deutsche Grammophon label and popped into my local antique shop to see what I could find.

It was my lucky day!  Waiting for me on their shelves were 8 volumes of the Deutsche Grammophon Beethoven Bicentennial Collection!  Featuring the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, each volume is packaged in a sturdy box set slipcase – each containing five discs and a book packed with information that I will thoroughly enjoy drinking in!

Deutsche Grammophon Beethoven Bicentennial Collection

Each of the volumes was magnificently well cared-for – the discs shined and appeared barely-played.  And for $1 per disc I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

I followed up the purchase with a call to The Bop Shop in Rochester, NY which should be able to supply me with the remaining volumes.  And just my luck – November is planned to be a half-0ff sale on their massive classical library, so I’m planning another trip before Christmas!

 

 

RETROMANIA: Pop Culture’s Addition to Its Own Past (a Review)

Retromania Simon Reynolds

Music critic Simon Reynolds is perhaps best-known for his coining of the term, “post-rock.”  He is also regarded for his incorporation of critical theory in his analysis of music.  His 2011 book, Retromania was my first encounter with his writing.

“I recently read Simon Reynolds’ Retromania and it was so spot-on as far as our current attitude to music and its history. For my money he’s one of the most intelligent music writers in the last two decades”
— DJ Food

Retromania turned out to be much more than a critical examination of popular culture’s fascination with its past.  It was a revealing study of my own approach to culture, trends, styles, and music.  And I’m certain that I wasn’t alone in this discovery.  Like most readers who made the personal decision to read 500 pages of cultural analysis by a music critic, it demonstrates the emerging and growing demographic of cultural curators.

Brian Eno noticed the rise of the curator and grasped its implications way ahead of the pack. In 1991, reviewing a book on hypertext for Artforum, he proclaimed: Curatorship is arguably the big new job of our times: it is the task of re-evaluating, filtering, digesting, and connecting together. In an age saturated with new artifacts and information, it is perhaps the curator, the connection maker, who is the new storyteller, the meta-author.’

The new century is rich with metadata and globally-accessible archives of content from all cultures and eras.  Youtube alone adds 100 hours of new video content every minute, and the emergence of music streaming services have only further-accelerated the accessibility of media, old and new alike.  This raises perhaps one of the biggest questions of our era: can culture survive in conditions of limitlessness?

Chapter 4: The Rise of the Rock Curator was the first glimpse into my own rationale as a cultural custodian.  It begins with the New Musical Express’ weekly column in the early 1980s – ”Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer.”  Several rock groups of the decade presented their music with a kind of invisible reading-and-movie-watching list attached, conveyed through literary references within their lyrics of images depicted on their album jackets.  (Sgt. Peppers is perhaps the best-known example of this execution.)

Reynolds writes that “being a Throbbing Gristle or Coil fan was like enrolling in a university course of cultural extremism, the music virtually coming with footnotes and a ‘Further Reading’ section attached.”

As the decade progressed, this curatorial baton was passed from the artists to their fan-base, who began, (whether consciously or unconsciously) to compile not just their favorite artist’s records, but the films, novels, and art which inspired their recordings.

The book goes on to explore the nature of collector-culture in the digital age and touches upon both the decisively retro action of record collecting and the inherent merits and dysfunctions associated with the activity, as well as the hoarding habits of media collection with respect to digital music.

But it was in a chapter on the 60s’ embrace of revivalism that I found the greatest revelation regarding my own bizarre fascination with music, art, and culture of the past.  Reynolds writes -

Remember the Pop Boutique store in central London with its slogan ‘Don’t follow fashion. Buy something that’s already out of date’? Just as vintage can have an undercurrent of recalcitrance towards fashion, similarly it is possible for rock nostalgia to contain dissident potential. If Time has become annexed by capitalism’s cynical cycles of product shifting, one way to resist that is to reject temporality altogether. The revivalist does this by fixating on one era and saying: ‘Here I make my stand.’ By fixing identity to the absolute and abiding supremacy of one sound and one style, the revivalist says, ‘ This is me.’

Retromania is a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening read.  In a simple skimming of the book’s index, I found what was effectively a list of the contents of my own studio.  The book examines:

Pierre Henry’s Le voile d’Orphée I et II
Varese’s Poème électronique
Perrey & Kingsley’s The In Sound From Way Out!
Bell Telephone Laboratories
The BBC Radiophonic Workshop
The Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center
Raymond Scott’s Manhattan Research Inc
The City of Tomorrow (1924)
Blade Runner
The Philips Prospective 21e Siècle label
The 1956 Ideal Home Exhibition
1958 World’s Fair in Brussels
Metropolis
Amazing Stories
Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970

Disney’s Tomorrowland
Einstürzende Neubauten
The Winstons’ Amen Break
Negativland
Public Image Ltd.
The Black Dog
Stereolab
Plunderphonics
2 Many DJs
24 Hour Party People
William Basinski
Steinski
Pop Will Eat Itself
Throbbing Gristle
Eno & Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
iPod Therefore I Am

Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children
The Avalanches’ Since I Left You
fifties revivalism
The Man Who Fell to Earth
The Hauntology Exhibition at the Berkley Art Museum
The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
The KLF / Justified Ancients of Mu Mu
DJ Shadow’s monumental Endtroducing LP
The glo-fi / chillwave / hypnagogic pop scene

and much, much more!

The Pinnacle of 90s Geek Rock – They Might Be Giants Classic Albums on Vinyl!

Milestones of teenage rock nostalgia, They Might Be Giants’ early albums were beautifully random and absurd rock records which spoke directly to the freaks and geeks of the late 80s and early 90s.  Dadaist lyrics, a Dial-a-Song service, bizarre subject matter and a bit of art rock sophistication all made They Might Be Giants alt music of choice for a nerd culture in the midst of the angry grunge era.

Don't Let's Start

This weirdly wonderful and unapologetically happy music was complemented by their even stranger music videos.  “Don’t Let’s Start” and “Ana Ng” were hit videos on MTV in 1987-89.  Devoid of self-serious pretension, They Might Be Giants embraced oddity and silliness while simultaneously sneaking in moments of sombre artistic genius.  Lyrics like, “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful” were woven effortlessly into otherwise nonsensical context.

Fortunately, They Might Be Giants did not die at 27 of a drug overdose.  They did not find god and start a religious crusade.  Nor did they end up with their own reality show as no-longer-relevant 40-somethings with too much money for their own good.

TMBG 2040 World Tour

Instead, they’ve pressed on through the decades, releasing 96 albums and singles, appealing to younger and younger audiences each year.

And John and John have not forgotten the children who grew up with them (many of whom now have children of their own.)  They have begun to re-issue the earliest albums of their catalog on vinyl for these life-long fans, some of which have not previously been available in the format.

Asbestos Records, an independent record label based in Stratford, Connecticut has recently pressed Factory Showroom, John Henry, and Apollo 18 after the band issued a Facebook poll asking their fans which albums they wanted on wax.  Surely more titles are to come, like the classic self-titled “pink album” and their best-selling Flood.

Asbestos Records

My copies of the new Asbestos pressings have just arrived at my door, pictured below beside my German original press of Flood and the Bar None first pressing of the pink album.

Special thanks to the Johns for all the great musical memories!

They Might Be Giants LPs

The History of Modern Ambient Music: Part 2 – 1993-2014

The conclusion to my 2-part Ambient Milestones series is now published on YouTube!  The exciting final element to the feature arrived in the post just a few days ago and I am delighted to share it with you all.

Or click here for the HD version.

Underworld’s 20th Anniversary LP and a State of Cultural Curation

Today it finally arrived! The 5-disc Super Deluxe 20th Anniversary Edition of Underworld’s incredible album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman.

Underworld is perhaps where I go off the deep end from fan to fringe fanatic. The first album I ever heard which wasn’t commercial pop radio – this record changed my life forever. The album packaging also marked the definitive moment when I knew I had to become a graphic designer.

To date I now have 394 of their albums and EPs in my digital library and nearly every LP, single, book, poster and print they’ve issued since 1979.

It’s collections like this that make me cautious – While I don’t buy these titles blindly, I feel somewhat of a sense of responsibility to have them all – perhaps as a part of what critic Simon Reynolds called the growing “curatorial culture” of music fans.

The snapshot below comprises the majority of the releases linked directly to Dubnobass in 1994. But emotionally it feels like I’m archiving my own life story at the crossroads where my preconceived notions of Music were shattered.

A tribute to Dubnobasswithmyheadman
I’m really at a thoughtful point in my self-appointed archival career.  I’m reading a number of books that examine the nature of post-millennium economy of music sales.  Most address the same fundamental points -

- The ease of distribution of digital files and their compact size has stripped music of its commercial value and rendered the majority of physical media useless, making music more of a utility than a property.  Most casual listeners are satisfied to sacrifice fidelity and dynamic range for the convenience of carrying thousand of albums with them while they shop, eat, and work, or to give up possession of their libraries entire in exchange for cloud-based music services.

Spotify

- Simultaneously, the inevitable gluttony of music acquisition which takes place in the digital age further diminishes the value of commercial music.

- However, vinyl sales continue to increase year after year while all other media sales plummet as music consumers discover the merit of the EXPERIENCE of actively listening and participating in their music instead of consuming it passively while performing other tasks.

1389038470.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlarge

- And finally, there is an ever-growing culture of music curators who collect physical artifacts of any number of periods, artists, styles, and formats in an effort to reaffirm the value of their music.  Another benefit of the digital age is that the Web grants these “curators” access to the furthest reaches of obscure and limited-pressing musics from cultures near and far and from (most) any period in history.

I’ve found myself spending more time and energy (and money) than I ever have before building my library of “artifacts,” in part to document my own personal story via music and also out of a sense of duty to build a library of Music that Matters, so that I can share it with the world and open the minds of listeners yearning for strange and wonderful sounds.

What about you?  Are you a cultural curator?  Are we wasting our time and our money with these antiquated and out-dated treasures or does our very act of collecting them somehow justify their value?

dubnobasswithmyheadman[1]

STOP. THE. PRESSES.

Dear friends, this will be a most candid and direct post.  No refinement or editing – just breaking and game-changing news.

I don’t care that I’ve just posted a video a few hours ago, and that it is “poor form” to double-up, particularly with a hastily-typed announcement.  But I consider this a music milestone.

As anyone who reads my articles knows full-well by now, I’d long-ago lost the majority of my faith in contemporary song.  Save for a few select artists I’ve followed for many decades, I invest most of my research and vinyl-purchasing energies in classic recordings of the past 50 years.

But this evening I read a piece of news that instantly motivated me to detour my behavioral form.

Thom Yorke announced today that he is releasing his new solo album via a new model of Bittorrent – one with a paygate channel for distribution.

Tomorrow's Modern Boxes

I was immediately motivated to purchase the album for several reasons:

1. The album is sold and distributed independently by the artist, demonstrating that the self-proclaimed owners of the industry are no longer necessary.

2. The digital version of the album is a mere $6.  (For six bloody dollars an album, I would instantly start paying artists directly for digital music.)

3. He offered (and I bought) a deluxe white vinyl edition of what will surely be an historic recording.

4. …which ships from the UK FOR FREE.

5. and which included an instant lossless FLAC, WAV, and lossy MP3 download of the complete album.

Sincerely – thank you, Thom for shattering my preconceptions about modern music and for proving to the industry the viability of Bittorrent.

Thom Yorke

Published in: on September 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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