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jw on 09/16/2009 at 08:48AM

Sanusi – Kramat Karam

dendang.jpgI thought I’d update mid-week with a pretty solid example of mid-20th century Indonesian krontjong.

Krontjong (in relatively equal amounts spelled kronjong, kroncong, keroncong, and kerontjong) is slightly over a century old, and is an urban folk music. Ethnomusicologists would call it a syncretic music, as it developed over time from a variety of cultural influences, such as Portuguese, Batavian, African, and Malay – all of which were present in one form or another in turn of the century Indonesia.

Known for its languid rhythm, Hawaiian “walking guitar,” and partially improvised violin runs, the style was first recorded in 1904, but musically hit its stride and popularity in the 1930s. By the 1940s, independent Indonesian labels began to appear such as Dendang (pictured here), Irama, and Serimpi, and hundreds if not thousands more krontjong records were released, joining the large amount already available from HMV, Odeon, and other companies.

In my personal experience, I’ve found it difficult to track down much krontjong on 78 outside of Indonesia, nor has much, if any, early krontjong music been re-released on CD. I’ve always found it unique – it often sounds like two bands playing completely separate arrangements of the same song, and somehow landing on their feet.

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doncbruital on 09/15/2009 at 12:59PM

Countervailing Pressures

Ned Ludd at symbolic battle

I've always coasted on symbolic ways of thinking, so I'll start with one such handy conceit: Mindless Corporate Technocracy vs. Punk Luddism, in which never the twain, being way past mutually-exclusive, shall meet. And yeah, while not necessarily the whole story, this cultural narrative, in which the scary technophiliac forces of the oppressor butt up against the raw spiritedness of a gnarly creative population, is, according to me, a fine one. It allows we brave folks on the side of the creators to, in short, keep going--creating, and facilitating creativity--for to falter in this battle is to let the monolithic Powers That Be take the advantage, and we surely can't let that happen.

But things change, yessir, and symbolic histories, invigorating though they may be, only get us so far. The FMA itself is, certainly, no tendril of a creeping corporate overlord, but it sure is technologically-oriented, and so fits nowhere in this one-or-the-other type of schema. Though its embrace of left-of-center human expression is quite in keeping with Ned Ludd, the largely mythical leader of the Industrial-Revolution-renouncing Luddites, smashing a bunch of stocking frames to protest society's increasing dehumanization, its technological basis flies in the face of that clan's organizing principle. So what's to be done?

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herr_professor on 09/15/2009 at 10:21AM

Them's the (long sigh) breaks.

Feast on Breaks

One of the knocks on chip music, and really electronic music in general, is the lack of a strong performance aspect behind many of it's live artists. Perhaps this is why some of the most popular performers today are those in the up-tempo and spazzy "chipbreak" end of the chip music pool. Some of the most excelled in this sub-niche of a niche are artists like Sabrepulse, Talk To Animals, and this weeks featured artist, Saskrotch. Combining the earnest heartfelt nostalgia of modern chiptunes with the drum fill blitz of breakcore can seemed like a contrived concoction, but these artists, Saskrotch in particular, bring a musicality and sense of humor to one of the most fun and youthful ends of the chip music spectrum.

 Saskrotch, Nigel Shields to his debt collection specialists, hails from the suburbs of Chicago, and is prolific as his songs are complex. The "Exploding Head Disease" release on Project 168, and now the FMA is a sardonic and heartfelt stab at both chipmusic and breakcore cliches turned innovations with boastful screeds like "I'm the Fucking King Of Chipbreak" and cheeky admonishments like "I Guess You Didn't See The Irony of Our Situation". At the end of the day however, these artists make their bacon with their great live performances, as this recently posted live set can attest to. It will be interesting to see how these artists evolve, and how far their rabid cults allow them to in the future. In the meantime its probably best to sit back and not think about it too hard, or better yet get up in the pit and lose your shit. We'll be back in seven, have a decent week.

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wmmberger on 09/14/2009 at 06:36PM

Caldera Lakes new album preview

CLHIRES Woolgathering vocal melodies hover foundationless over sheets of noise, drone and buzz. You get scared, though you're oddly comforted at the same time. Still, it feels better with that night-light on. You hear what might be footsteps, or bells, or someone sawing sheet metal. Such is the music of Caldera Lakes.

The duo of Married in Berdichev (aka Brittany Gould) and Kevin Shields (aka Eva Aguila) were generous enough to share this rough cut of their newest album (which will eventually reappear as a proper release in edited form) with My Castle of Quiet and WFMU (four of these six tracks premiered on my show September 2nd.)

The chaotic, sonic hailstorm conjured up by artists like Merzbow or Masonna meets the buoyant-but-bent psychedelia of Azalia Snail, or Fifty Foot Hose, in these enjoyable recordings. The epic closer, "Arctic Ghost," is especially magnificent. Enjoy.

These tracks are shared by Caldera Lakes through a creative commons attribution-non commercial-no derivatives license, and are available here on the Free Music Archive. Photo portrait by Renata Raksha.

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mpvernon on 09/14/2009 at 10:48AM

Quiet Orchestra: Angelic Music from The City of Angels

wsp53n.jpgQuiet Orchestra is  a Los Angeles collective of local musicians. The twenty-plus musicians come from all genres of music including rock, jazz and world. The music tends to be improvisational yet strangely cerebral.  While the ensemble has some very innovative artists in its ranks, its best known member is guitarist Nels Cline. There is an hour and a half of challenging and beautiful music on this self-titled on-line collection with three of the tracks being over twenty minutes. There are also brief solo excursions by several of the members including Nels Cline, keyboardist Aaron Arntz, bass player Gabe Noel, drummer Barbara Gruska, and tabla player Zach Harmon. Odd but angelic music from The City of Angels.

You can get the album in an album zip from the orchestra's web site or in separate tracks at WFMU's Free Music Archive. As a quick introduction, check out Nels Cline's solo track.

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macedonia on 09/12/2009 at 03:18PM

grooving with the gray areas...

Album cover for Yoko Absorbing's Vinyl.

My first experience with the Clinical Archives netlabel has been through the group Yoko Absorbing, a duo of multi-instrumentalists.  Their Vinyl album is an intriguing collection of songs that explore the push and pull between electronic and acoustic sounds, loops and live instrumentation.  Their more abrasive side is on display with tunes like "Hoffnung" and "To Be More Specific," almost industrial in discipline.  "Vinyl Blues Part 1" lies in stark contrast, sounding like a live house band steeped in disco and funk that occasionally gets in touch with their inner Sonic Youth and feels the need to throw some feedback into the mix.

Admittedly, it's the latter that has held me captive all week the point of where I found myself dancing around my kitchen.  And while my first impulse is to offer up all seven minutes of Part 1, "Vinyl Blues Part 2" makes for an even better teaser: funky, loopy, and just long enough to make you curious...

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pushbinlou on 09/11/2009 at 04:43PM

Friday Psych Freakout

photo by _boris

How about a nice heavy psych track to wind up your Friday afternoon?  O.K.  Here is a great one from long time Canadian indie stalwarts Devolver.  They have been putting out amazing pop-psych records since the late 90's and have been nice enough to upload a number of tracks from some of their various albums.

"Sound is Leaking" is from Devolver's fifth release Sky of Holes.  One of their heavier cuts this one just grabs you by the throat and never lets go.  Although this is my favorite track the whole album is a keeper and worth checking out.  Enjoy

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longrally on 09/11/2009 at 09:02AM

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society at Le Poisson Rouge

DSC_0594 Back in the middle of July I had the opportunity to record Darcy James Argue's Secret Society at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC for air on WFMU.  DJA's Secret Society is an 18-piece big band that pairs a healthy adoration of the history of big band jazz with a playful modern sensibility, infusing meticulous arrangements with noise and free passages, Afro-funk beats or minimalism.  I was taken with their debut record, Infernal Machines, almost immediately because it represents a freeform approach to a music that has thrown genres into the toolbox only incrementally.  Darcy has a large palette to work from and he uses it.

And, you know, let's face it, it's ballsy to have a big band in 2009.  Despite the fact that this music has some support (the record was partially fan funded), and some favorable press (there was a piece in Newsweek, of all places, not to mention the fawning jazz press), it's not exactly economical or convenient to tour with a big band, record with a big band, or even play one-off shows.  Plus, the logistics of periodically reassembling this cast of excellent musicians, all in demand players with their own projects to boot, is somewhat mindboggling.  There is an audacity, a punk rock ethos, and a purpose that pervades this project, and it's worthy of some appreciation.

That said, the music is also wonderful. Have a listen. And, maybe peruse Darcy's excellent blog while you're at it.  Special thanks to Le Poisson Rouge and Darcy James Argue for being so accommodating.  Engineered by Matt Duane.

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society; Le Poisson Rouge 07/15/09 [full set]
 Setlist, personnel and more photos after the break...

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JoeMc on 09/10/2009 at 02:40PM

First of the Red Hot Mamas

Red Hot Mama in the middle.

Ready for the Sophie Tucker revival?

I sure am!

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times ran a nice little article on the "Last of the Red Hot Mamas." Check it out here. The occasion for the article was the release of a new CD on Archeophone Records featuring songs Sophie Tucker recorded for Edison in 1910-11 and Okeh in the early 20s. Despite their low fidelity, the recordings show that this vaudeville pro's salty style was in full-flower from the very beginning of her career. Other media outlets in print and on the Internet have since picked up the Times' lead. It's clear: Sophie Tucker's back!

Why this renewed interest in this forgotten icon of the American stage? Read on, as you listen to her theme song, for some thoughts on the phenomenon that was Sophie Tucker.

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lizb on 09/10/2009 at 10:29AM

Collaboration Sensation

Photo by bondad (CC by-nc)

Browsing through some of CASH Music's offerings on the FMA, I came across some great songs by a collaborative music project called Learning Music.

Led by John Wood, Learning Music's members rotate, swell, and retreat, but the constant is their album-a-month release schedule. Sample tunes from each monthy release are posted to their page on the FMA. On the Learning Music website, you can subscribe to these monthly releases in either corporeal or virtual formats. Remixing and cover versions of their songs are highly encouraged (even by outsiders).

Songs range from well-orchestrated indie rock ("CGGF" and "(LM) Labor Day") to warped boogaloo ("I Want You Pretty") to hip-hop-worthy beats ("Echo Echo Echoman" below). Fans of bands like Xiu Xiu and Of Montreal will likely dig it.

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