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andrewcsmith on 05/21/2010 at 09:30AM

Every Heaven is the Best One...

Sam Ashley, Every Heaven is the Best One and Every Hell is the Worst One

The idea is that about halfway through, Sam Ashley is no longer really playing the drums. Instead, by balancing the two sides of his body, Ashley turns himself into what he describes as a "human VU meter," or a readout of the current state of his spirit possession. In his performance of "Every Heaven is the Best One and Every Hell is the Worst One," Ashley allows himself to become possessed by a particular spirit—one he has developed a relationship with over the years. Ashley's drumming quickly becomes involuntary; as the spirit is exorcised, his movement grows more an more violent until he is free of the spirit and the performance is over. However, this doesn't mean that the spirit possession itself is violent. After the performance, Ashley said that, while the spirit was initially a threatening presence, they are now on good terms. In other words, the spirit doesn't necessarily outright command him to play louder, but they do so together.

Sam Ashley is one of the highlights of ISSUE's Month of the Ecstatic Moment, happening through all of May. Although he is likely best-known as a member of Robert Ashley's opera ensemble (in Dust, Celestial Excursions, Improvement, and others) Sam has been working for decades as an experimental mystic. His focus is making certain mystical occurances—like spirit possession, or trance more generally—audible acts. The idea is that by making these events audible, a view will be opened to "things that occur in-between the 'real world' and something else."

Here's a video of the performance, and an audio recording is below.

Sam Ashley - Every Heaven is the Best One and Every Hell is the Worst One from issueprojectroom on Vimeo.

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JoeMc on 05/20/2010 at 02:30PM

A Ragged Life; or, How to Invent Modern Music in One Easy Step

If he looks unhappy, it may be because in 1908, when this photo was taken, things were going south.

If there's one thing that seems inarguable to me about popular music, it's that it operates on a continuum. Nothing springs full-grown from the head of a Gershwin or an Armstrong or a Hank Williams; the music we think of as new all comes from those who have come before. The best musicians and performers will revamp, recombine, and renew the music of past generations, but the roots are always showing.

Well, almost always. One guy who is pretty darn close to the main root of all of the musical trees that grew up during the 20th century is a quiet little dude from Texas who decided that mixing some African syncopation into European forms might make for an interesting hybrid. His name was Scott Joplin, and his experiment in musical miscegenation would transform popular music in America.

Ugh, that sentence there sounds like a PBS documentary is about to start. Have no fear, this post will be shorter than Ken Burns' Jazz (at least a little shorter). But the truth is, Scott Joplin did have a lot to do with creating the music that led to the music we listen to now. He never actually recorded anything himself, but we do have some piano rolls he had something to do with, and if you play them back, you can get a hint of what he might've sounded like. Listen to a couple of them below, and I'll make an attempt to continue in a slightly less PBS-inspired manner after the jump.

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lizb on 05/20/2010 at 10:15AM

Tapes & The Polyps

It's no longer a fluke: cassette tapes are back. I cringe with memories of discovering musical favorites melted in the dashboard, warped from too much play, or the sinking sensation associated with hearing that tell-tale cartoonish scrambled noise emitted by magnetic tape upon rapid mechanic unraveling. Not to mention the hiss.

But alas, I'll grudgingly accept this backpedaling in certain cases, especially for bands that are well-suited to the medium. Enter the Polyps, a band from Portland, whose lo-fi buzzy pop sounds are actually complemented by tape hiss.

One member of the Polyps is Raf, who runs the Eggy tape label and tape distribution, and is a member of other tape-friendly bands the Golden Hours, the Woolen Men, and the now-defunct Blood Lemons (along with FMA honcho Jason Sigal!).

The FMA is hosting selections from 5 great Polyps releases, including tracks from their July 2008 tape, "Isla & Elma" (the song "Elsewhere" from this tape is featured below). Also check out a more recent release, "Twenty-Colored Circle;" two spacey, contemplative tracks mix acoustic pop with nature-heavy audio collage.

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portland, tape
jason on 05/19/2010 at 03:50PM

Regional Music -- new LP from Pregnant

Daniel Trudeu is Pregnant, a musical project from the foothills east of Sacramento CA. His music hovers somewhere within or beyond the electro-psych-folk realms, incorporating organic sound samples (sax, wind instruments, hand percussion), and wet electronics as if these digital components were just part of the natural earth. Pregnant's third album Regional Music will be released on vinyl by Life's Blood in June, and I encourage everyone to take a listen to the mp3s kindly shared here on the Free Music Archive.

I've raved indirectly about Pregnant before -- his debut Liquidation on Swans made it into my 10 Free Albums for 2010, and my year-end list for Phlow Magazine. The album first appeared on the FMA with a review from Vice Magazine, saying twice, "People didn't really like this shit at Vice." For whatever that's worth...well we like it here are we're not alone. The FMA also hosts tracks from Pregnant's second album, IKE WIMIN, which was released on vinyl from KDVS Recordings (the label arm of the top-notch UC Davis radio station). Pregnant is a friend of the partially Sacto-based Obstructive Vibrations label -- with folks like Hexlove, Raleigh Moncrief, and Appetite...clearly there is much good sound resonating through the Sacramento Valley these days (not to mention the venerable SS Records).

Regional Music is best heard as a cohesive album, but if I could highlight just a few tracks, I'd direct your ears towards "Uphill Divination" (riyl new Dirty Projectors), the pseudo-slowjam "Wiff of Father," the instrumental "Tribe"/"Organigan" suite, and "Selling Records." The latter primarily for its lyrical content, as Trudeu sings, "The reason it's hard to make records is that you don't do it to sell records." With three records released in under two years, making records seems to be a fluid part of Daniel Trudeu's life, and I hope this is just the beginning of a long and fruitful life of music-making. You can pre-order the Regional Music LP at Life's Blood.

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efd on 05/19/2010 at 09:00AM

White Hills Play Live on WFMU, Headphone Sales Surge

Wh0451 The Brooklyn-based band White Hills recently returned for a second visit to WFMU, laying down a devastating follow-up to their April 2007 appearance. This most recent performance included two songs from the new self-titled album that was recently released on Thrill Jockey, as well as a song from their second full-length Heads On Fire and one from their split release with The Heads.

It was back in 2005 when White Hills attracted the attention of Julian Cope and his Head Heritage web site: a track from the band was included on the Due To Lack Of Interest, Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled sampler CD alongside Comets on Fire and Temple of Bon Matin, among others. They went on to release their first full-length, Glitter Glamour Atrocity, in early 2007 and made their first appearance on my show shortly thereafter.

  Wh0459 It seems silly to try to write a description of White Hills's music when there are links just pixels away that you can click on to hear them for yourself. But, in this short attention span world I will entice you to click those links by quoting writer Ben Graham, who called their sound a "glam-tinged fusion of Stooges, Hawkwind and Can" on the UK music site The Quietus earlier this year. He adds:

"[T]he bruisingly heavy 'Three Quarters' [...] is White Hills at their most bleak and nihilistic, with Dave coldly chanting "We don't care, she don't care, they don't care, no-one cares," over the band's patented Stoogewind riffing, exploding midway through into a raw Ron Asheton style solo. Many bands of course attempt this type of music, but few pull it off with the power and freshness achieved here. There's no stodge, no drag- this shit is lean and dangerous."


I recommend that you throw that short attention span out the window and listen to their May 4 session in its entirety (the first track in the player above). You don't have to listen through headphones to enjoy it -- but it wouldn't hurt! And don't sleep on the 2007 WFMU session, either. Many thanks to Glenn Luttman for engineering both sets.

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white hills, space-rock
lavenders on 05/18/2010 at 05:30PM

Lucky Dragons “OPEN WIDE” Proton Drive Theme Song

Our amazing friends Lucky Dragons have created this “Open Wide” Proton Drive theme to activate your positive action! Get tangled in these jungle sounds and tune into dublab all week long for incredible sessions from labrat djs and our extended family of music pioneers.

We will be sharing electrifying sounds to inspire your support Monday-Friday: 8am-8pm and during our 24 hour "No Sleep Session" Marathon Broadcast starting May 24th at 12pm and ending May 25th at 12pm PST. (All times GMT -7)

We're celebrating over ten years of future roots radio transmissions and creative art action. The Proton Drive is a bi-annual affair that provides over 40% of our operating budget. These funds allow us to bring infinite streams of amazing music to the world. You can help these vibrations shine bright by spreading the word and giving a generous PROTON GRANT today!

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lucky dragons
herr_professor on 05/18/2010 at 12:51PM

Binärpilot Again!

Gremlins have infiltrated the TCTD media empire, causing mass technical blahs in the bloop matrix so this one will have to be quick. Binärpilot was featured on the FMA blog before but he has since taken control of his FMA profle with more uploads for your enjoyment, including this wonderful ep from 8bitpeoples. Enjoy it, and catch you guys in seven.

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katya-oddio on 05/18/2010 at 10:15AM


copyright: Marc Gutman

Move over, Tom Lehrer, with "The Elements," your periodic table classic. There is a new act on the scene. Their name is Matheatre. This time it isn't chemisty; it's mathematics. Marc Gutman and Sadie Bowman have written a touring Calculus musical, Calculus: The Musical!, and continued their clever work with C-Sections (available at the FMA) and Log, A Rhythm. A series of albums to encompass all of Pre-calculus is in the works.

Get your nerd on now! Enjoy C-Sections in its entirety at the FMA!

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jason on 05/17/2010 at 12:00PM

Mexico's lalala4e netlabel brings the retro-future-funk

While researching northern mexico gangster folk music, PK (of Peppermill Records) discovered this amazing netlabel, lalala4e, and I'm so glad he passed the URL along. Their website is mindblowing -- used to be totally different with tumbling cartoon characters and lightning, but still with plenty of fireworks, check it out.

The label isn't so much "gangster folk", more along the lines of retro-futurist party music with a bit of folk, chip, electro, funk and field recordings finding their way into the mix. You can get a sense from their first compilation, This Is the New Yeah!, a future-themed collection released on New Year's Eve 2009, after the jump.

Among my favorites are Desolate's experimental "imge economy to the future" groove, Error.Error's pummeling lo-bit "Kill Kill Kill", and Quiero Ser Bonita's bilingual abstract rock. And the absolute jam comes from Prepare to Meet Thy Broom!, two teenage brothers from Juarez Mexico...take a listen to "High like it's 1989" (off the comp) and one more track off their 1989 EP (also released on lalala4e).

Lalala4e has fresh new releases on the way later this year(/yeah!), so keep an ear out on their blog | myspace | homepage!

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andrewcsmith on 05/16/2010 at 11:42PM

Algorithmic aphorisms

loadbang ensemble

"This moment is the reason that I write programs to write my music." The composer Nick Didkovsky said this one evening, right before he hit a button and his computer spit out a thirty-second, fully-notated composition. Naturally, it was mostly pretty bad and he rejected about all but four measures, and even that bit needed some tuning up. That little segment of music, though, was pretty remarkably weird, which somehow makes it all worthwhile.

The ensemble loadbang performs some of Didkovsky's very, very short algorithmic compositions, with aphoristic texts by Charles O'Meara like "If you look over your shoulder and you see clouds, you are a giant," or "Sweat like a pig, smell like a sow," or "Scream for help in the forest and the monkeys will only laugh." (Many of these are at their site). Loadbang plays these deadpan, solemnly reading each text before playing the piece.

Unlike many of Didkovsky's pieces where the computer's advice is mixed freely with his own inclinations, every note of these pieces is entirely computer-composed. His software JMSL, which uses the Java programming language, takes parameters like "harmonic complexity" and many others to determine the outcome of a piece. The best part is that if it's totally unlikable, all you have to do is hit a button and you get another.

Loadbang will perform some of these pieces (and others, by John Cage, Quinn Collins, and members of the ensemble) this Thursday at The Tank, on 354 W. 45th St. in Manhattan. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for everyone else.

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