jason on 10/13/2014 at 05:03AM
I made a 2-part Radio Free Culture about the player piano's legacy on music, copyright and digital culture
Part 1 feat David Suisman, Lisa Gitelman and Michael Simon - The transition from sheet music to piano rolls transformed our understanding of copyright.
Part 2 feat Nick Seaver, Aaron David Ross, Michael Connor and Nick Yulman - The player piano's influence on digital music, including MIDI, Disklavier Super MIDI, Black MIDI, MIDI-powered automata and mechanical pop.
Some classic player piano performances have been recorded and compiled by Kazoomzoom for the Frog Legs compilation. Below, enjoy one from Scott Joplin, a Ragtime legend who you can read more about in this feature story by Joe McG.
jason on 07/01/2014 at 03:00AM
Bonne Fête du Canada! The latest album by Alaclair Ensemble is finally available as a free CC download. Toute Est Impossible was leaked earlier this year via Alaclair’s own version of the deep web. That deep web is just one extension of the ensemble’s parallel universe.
"Postrigodon" is what they call their musical style—a playful freeform mashup through the lens of hiphop. Alaclair’s members KenLo Craqnuques, Maybe Watson, Ogden, VLooper Eman and Claude Bégin are at the forefront of a very exciting hiphop scene in Quebec, but "Bas-Canada" is their true home. The album cover portrays Stephen Harper, Canada’s Prime Minister, who apparently becomes a superhero when he dons the group’s signature upside down maple leaf.
Alaclair’s last album was shortlisted for the Polaris prize. With Toute Est Impossible, they continue flipping that maple leaf upside down. They want you to "Logoff" the computer, referencing Facebook, Google on songs like "Logoff." "Woof! mami / It's a bloggy blog world." A couple tracks delve into R&B territories, like "Calinour" (Care Bears forever?) while "Licornes" paints a g-funk vibe, referencing Sadé. Elsewhere, they shout out Kool Keith. I’d say Alaclair is somewhere on that spectrum, but really they are in their own world.
jason on 06/03/2013 at 02:55PM
Tashi Dorji conjures incredible sounds from a prepared acoustic guitar. His spirited improvisations—recorded live without any loops or effects—evoke a composite of influences from Derek Bailey to Mauritanian pulaar to the traditional music of his native Bhutan.
"Growing up in Bhutan with little access to music except random bootlegged cassettes and shortwave radio, I listened to anything i could find," Tashi Dorji writes in an email interview. He learned guitar by ear because "we didn't have music school, TV or internet back then in Bhutan, so we had to use a lot of imagination and improvise what we thought we heard off of a tape player."
Tashi Dorji arrived in Asheville, North Carolina as an international student in 2000. He quickly fell in with the vibrant punk rock community, which flowed into free jazz, noise, experimental and other avant garde music. The Appalachian mountain town has become a real hub for experimental music thanks to longstanding acts like Ahleuchatistas, resources like Asheville FM, the shop Harvest Records, tape distributor Tomentosa, and labels like Bathetic and Headway Recordings.
Guitar Improvisations, released on cassette by Headway last year, sold out quickly but is available to download from the FMA along with his release sêp. This week, the label unveiled Tashi Dorji's self-titled follow-up, and it's streaming after the jump. Tashi Dorji also has a forthcoming release on Turned Word Records out of Belfast ME, and much more on his bandcamp.
Bhutanese traditional music is an oral tradition consisting of many marginal, isolated communities across the country, and much has yet to be documented. But for those interested in hearing some examples, Tashi Dorji points us towards a nascent archive hosted by the Bhutan Broadcasting Service.
jason on 04/22/2013 at 07:16AM
Brattleboro is a small town in southern Vermont with a high per capita of home-recorded experimental-pop. From King Tuff's scuzzy glam, to the prolific Happy Jawbone Family Band, to new migrants like Chris Cohen (former Deerhoof/Cryptacize) and Bird Names, this historic river region seems to fuel creativity.
OSR Tapes Dax Bills has released some of the most exciting new sounds from Brattleboro: cassettes by the likes of Nals Goring, Horse Boys, Heat Wilson, Blanche Blanche Blanche, and Zach Phillips. Phillips, the force behind the label, is also the enigma behind pretty much all of these projects. FMA's doncbruital tried to help us wrap our heads around the OSR phenomenon back in 'Dec '09, but the OSR Tapes well of creativity continues to flood down the Connecticut River.
Blanche Blanche Blanche is Zach Phillips' collaboration with vocalist and lyricist Sara Smith, doing something they describe as "open session rock." They performed with members of Punks on Mars, Big French and Great Valley as a tight-knit 5-piece opening for Howling Hex at Brooklyn's Secret Project Robot last month, slipping a Royal Trux cover into a set that came across like Philip Glass scoring a prog-metal/hardcore-punk opera. I asked Zach how the guitar, synth and V-Drums so fluidly follow Sara's pink-haired poetic punk incantations. He explained how he writes scores for each song in his own notation—"four E's, one C, etc"—where each number is a beat.
On their home recordings, Blanche Blanche Blanche paints a lofi atmosphere that should appeal to fans of Ariel Pink, Gary War and James Ferrarro's Nightdolls With Hairspray. The songs are semi-linear, and the sound changes with each release along with the lineup. On their latest 7" (Scam b/w Press Dumps), they wanted to do something without keyboards, so they enlisted guitarist Graham Brooks from the local metal band Atlatl, and fellow home recordist Chris Weisman. Available from Adagio 830, they've also worked with Feeding Tube, La Station Radar, Night People. You'll find all 8 BBB releases for sale + free download at osr-tapes.com, alongside gems from other OSR family members. You can dig deeper here on the FMA, too, with the fantastic Songs For Music by the mysterious Bruce Hart, after the jump.
jason on 04/05/2013 at 10:30AM
Here's a classic from Olneyville Sound System. Like their namesake System—the inspirational former workplace of David Byrne that churns out hot weiners covered in a legendary meat sauce—OSS also specialize in a flavor that is distinct to the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence RI.
OSS make bass and drum music. Not to be confused with "drum 'n' bass." This is real raw bass sludge from Dan St. Jacques (Landed, Six Finger Satellite) and Adam Autry (Boredoms' Boadrum, Plate Techtonics). Their sound is akin to Lightning Bolt doing ESG, concise noise-funk with the experimental humor of Men's Recovery Project. "These Guys Don't Take Requests, They Don't Play Showtunes" comes from their '97 Load Records debut Because We're All In This Together, which featured "anti-blues" harmonica by Roma and maniacal vocals by Jon Von Ryan.
"Olneyville Sound System was very influential on Usaisamonster," Colin Langenus wrote in a post describing a recent collaboration Adam Autry. The Colin L Orchestra joins in on a rare OSS Brooklyn performance this Saturday at the Silent Barn. Providence's Russian Tsarlag, recent WFMU guests Source of Yellow, DJ Greg Fox, and a ventriloquist who goes by the name of Bernard Herman are also on the bill.
Feel free to request "These Guys Don't Take Requests" at an upcoming OSS show, but they'll be playing new material. Word is they have a new album tracked at Machines With Magnets. I got to see some of it live about a year ago and it is going to rule. We'll hear some when they swing by Talk's Cheap / WFMU on April 18th. For a deeper voyage into the history of OSS, check out On Safari, recorded live at Providence's defunct Safari Lounge.
jason on 03/29/2013 at 02:00AM
Ak'chamel, The Giver of Illness hail from Hexas. That's Houston, Texas, under a spell.
Inspired by Sun City Girls, Master Musicians of Bukkake, Hayvanlar Alemi and related strains of psychedelic improv and raw international music, the collective's self-released cassettes would sound right at home on Sublime Frequencies ("Radio Hexas?"). Tune into Old Norse Mara and The Divine Vine Tapes as throat singing and mysterious glossolalia meld with analog percussion, wind instruments, metal strings and chimes to cast a malevolent witch-doctor spell.
Houston may not be the most receptive environment for Ak'chamel's shamanic performances, but they have graced a handful of unconventional venues around town, including a laundromat, a clothing store, and an attic. Formerly known as Chairs, you may encounter Ak'chamel at FMA, Bandcamp, Facebook and beyond.
jason on 03/20/2013 at 01:20PM
"Música Para Planchar" is a track from their captivating self-titled debut. Their second album, Olas Invisibles, was recorded in a cathedral with guests like the Swedish singer Ewa Wikstrom and African artist Mû (listen to "Gulab Jeman" below). Their third album, Club Eden (listen: "Walking & Talking"), introduced electronic signal processing as they continue to refine their enchanting sound.
The duo is currently raising support for a fourth album that will introduce guest musicians from Spain, Israel, Guinea Bissau, Mexico, Argentina and USA. As one of the many folks who've enjoyed Selva de Mar's previous three releases for free courtesy of the artist here at the FMA, I'm proud to support their next album. This is one of the many projects curated by the FMA on our Kickstarter page.
jason on 03/06/2013 at 08:45PM
Moscow's Post-Materialists (Пост-Материалисты) are too weird for Moscow's conservative venues. But they don't care. Inspired by freeform experimental groups like The Residents and Big City Orchestra, and in-league with locals like Asian Women on the Telephone and Arabian Horses, the Post-Materialists' sound is best heard in Moscow's basements and abandoned factories.
Sergey founded Post-Materialists in 2008, starting out as a half-improvised duo with Kobyla. Sergey is a saxophonist, riff-master and lyricist who performs solo as Fish Eye, and plays in everything from hip-hop to noise rock groups. Kobyla cut his teeth on post-punk guitar and synth-pop. Additional members join in on anything from effects pedals to violin, so even as songs take shape, Post-Materialists keep the spirit of improv and continue to evolve.
The group has developed a following not only in the fringes of Moscow, but all over the world thanks to releases on international labels like Cack Tapes, Retrotrasher, Underground Pollution and Hiroshima Toy Pet. I first heard about them through a tape on Portland Oregon's Eggy Records with art by Massachusettes experimentalist Sam Gas Can.
Of the 25+ tracks that Post-Materialists have shared here on the FMA, I've picked out a few of my favorites below. "Jazz Flutes" and "I'm Sitting On You" are from the sax-surfin-on-sludge release Teenage Gigantizm. "Glyptique" is some of that hypnotic synth burble from their twisted new 7". "Mathematic Nightmare" recalls coconspirators AWOTT and can be found on Junky Tapes alongside an industrial take on "Venus in Furs". "Backward City" is indicitive of the lo-fi downbeat drone incantations from Post-Pop, originally released on a cassette on Russia's Cack Tapes. And their First EP finds roots in a pot'n'pan approach to no wave, in the vein of "Evening Event."
Check out a live rendition of "Teenage Giganitizm" and a music video called "Singer of Sad Songs" after the jump.
jason on 02/23/2013 at 04:00AM
This is a guest post by Kristin Thomson, a social researcher, musician and co-director of Future of Music Coalition’s Artist Revenue Streams project. We'll discuss this groundbreaking project on the next episode of WFMU's Radio Free Culture, Monday 6-7pm ET.
For at least fifty years of the 20th century, the relationship between music and radio airplay was fairly well understood. Record executives knew that if they wanted a hit record, they needed that song to get played on the radio, preferably as many times as possible. In fact, until 2000, radio airplay was essentially a prerequisite to selling significant amounts of recorded music.
Clearly, radio airplay is still critical – especially for genres like pop, country and urban/R&B – but in recent years both radio and the mechanisms for selling music have been upended. Traditional commercial radio, with its limited playlists and regional reach, has been challenged by new forms of radio: webcast versions of existing stations (including WFMU), pureplay webcast stations like Soma-FM or Pandora, and Sirius XM satellite radio. Then there are the interactive services like Spotify, Rhapsody, Last.fm, and Rdio, many of which mimic radio through playlist options or pre-programmed channels. And there's YouTube, now considered one of the most widely used sources of music discovery in the world.
The sale of recorded music has also changed. Prior to about 2000, the money that a musician could make from the sale or license of a sound recording was pretty simple: you could sell physical copies of an album or a single in a retail setting like a record shop, you could sell them via mailorder, or at shows/gigs. If you were lucky and your music was placed in a movie or TV show, you could make money from the synch license on the master recording. But that was about it. Since about 2000, these options have expanded to include digital sales on stores like iTunes and Amazon, digital performance royalties when sound recordings are streams on non-interactive services like Pandora or Sirius XM, and interactive service payments for streams on Spotify/Rhapsody. And there are more.
The average US consumer now has dozens of low-cost or free ways to listen to and discover new music. What has this done to the relationship between radio airplay and music sales? And, more to the point, are musicians benefiting from this changing landscape?
In 2010, the nonprofit Future of Music Coalition launched Artist Revenue Streams, a multi-method, cross-genre examination of musicians' revenue streams, how they are changing over time, and why. We used three methods to collect data: in-person interviews with over 80 hard-working musicians and composers; an online survey that was completed by over 5,300 US-based musicians and composers, and financial case studies that allowed us to fully examine musicians' income and expenses over time.
jason on 02/21/2013 at 01:15AM
"I've snowboarded once," Michael Stasis admitted when I asked him about Snowboarder, his new collaboration with Jason Kick and David Nichols. "It's like the Beach Boys didn't surf." The trio's got harmonized pop songcraft to back up that reference, but instead they list "devils" as their primary influence and "hell" as their general manager.
Snowboarder's self-titled debut offers seven tracks of warped, hook-laden jams for your real or imagined snowboarding trips. The opening track "Sled Dogs" takes off on a bent guitar wail over jangle pop powder, then flips a 180 into a cinematic bridge. The next verse describes some kind of coke iditarod, landing unexpectedly in a torrent of radical metal riffs. Elsewhere, Snowboarder rides everything from 80's dance pop ("Poppers") to industrial nursery rhymes on Sulfur Hexafluoride ("Going Up The Mountain").
Jason Kick is best known for his work in San Francisco synth-pop favorites Maus Haus whose motorik, hypnotic rhythms earned them "Band of the Year" in SF Deli Mag. They also seem to have influenced some of the recent work of Snowboarder collaborator Michael Stasis. A talented solo artist, Stasis first caught our ear via Phoning It In's tip on his Natural Resources cassette: "a perfect lo-fi pop-psych-folk concoction in the lineage of Ariel Pink or Guided By Voices."