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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Eu Amo MoMo

Without question, compiling club listings every week is the worst part of my job. It is also arguably the most important. Though unendingly — and at times unbearably — tedious to cull, club listings provide the foundation for the entire music section. And by poring over them each week, I get a comprehensive overview of the upcoming week's feel, which helps in deciding how the rest of the section should play out.

Over time, you start to see fairly predictable patterns. Club listings are kind of like fractals in that way. Spend enough time with them and anomalies within the pattern will jump out at you. For example, every couple of months you'll see a band play what I like to call the "Bee's Knees Triangle." This is a touring route most often used by savvy out-of-town bands that typically consists of the Bee's Knees in Morrisville (duh), Montpelier's Langdon Street Café, and either Radio Bean or the Monkey House — and sometimes both.

When I see a band is entering the BK Triangle, I almost always make a note to check them out. One, the booking folks at each of the aforementioned venues are exceptionally good at what they do. So if they've all agreed that a group is good enough to book, that says a lot. And two, any band that has figured out how to make a trip to Northern VT worth their time by hitting up each of those venues usually has their act together. That doesn't always equate to good music. But more often than not, it does.

Such is the case with Rio de Janeiro-based psych-folk/Tropicália outfit MoMo, who are playing at LSC (Friday) the Bean (Saturday) and, to complete the trifecta, the Bee's Knees (Sunday). I'm actually spotlighting the band in this week's paper, and I mention them in SoundBites as well. The double coverage thing (triple if you count this post) is something I generally shy away from unless I'm really, really excited about a band. Guess what? I'm really, really excited about this band.

Here's a video from a recent live performance. The song is called "Preciso Ser Pedra" — rough translation "I Need To Be Stoned" — and is the opening track from their mindblowing new album Buscador — which, for a limited time, you can download for free on their website. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bankruptcy, Oh My!

There must be something in the (now officially … sigh) fall air, because you folks have been flooding me with videos and MP3s to post of late. Thanks for that. And please, keep 'em coming!

Today's submission comes to us from Raph Worrick (the Dirtminers) and his nifty side project Plastic Billionaires. The song is a version of Brian Eno's "The Fat Lady of Limbourg," originally released on his 1974 record Taking Tiger Mountain and reimagined on the Billionaires cheekily titled 2009 effort, Bankrupting Tiger Mountain, which you can download via the link to their website above. Enjoy!

The Fat Lady of Limbourg from Plastic Billionaires on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Villanelles Play on Rooftop!

OK, Villanelles are not playing on any rooftops that I know of. However, the increasingly excellent local indie outfit is opening for Grammy-nominated rockers Plain White T's tonight at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge. As regular readers know, I love it when local folks get the nod to open for bigger bands at the area's marquee juke joint. Can't happen enough, in my not-so humble opinion. Anyway, they will also be unveiling a new quickie EP, leading up to a full-length release at some point in the (relatively) near future.

You can take a listen to those songs below. But please don't be a jerk and rip them. If you dig the tunes — and I think you will — head over to HG and support good local music.

"She Found Someone":


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Turning Japanese

So, Yo La Tengo played last night at Higher Ground. And by the look of it, most of you were there. This of course spares me from having to chew you out for bitching about the perceived dearth of indie music at the area's marquee juke joint and then not showing up when they deliver the goods. So, um … gold star for you!

For those who didn't go, Yo la Tengo were … well, they were Yo La Fucking Tengo. How do you think they were? There is a reason those guys (and gal) are legends. They rocked. Hard.

But for me — and several bewildered folks I spoke with during and after the show — the night belonged to Yura Yura Teikoku, a Tokyo-based psych-rock trio that opened the show. Sweet holy hell. They might be my new favorite band. I even bought a CD at the show, which I rarely do — mostly because I typically already have CDs sent to me from bands playing shows at HG. And also 'cuz I'm cheap.

This is a terrible — and borderline offensive — description of their sound, but the thought that ran through my mind during their set was, "if the Vacant Lots and the Fatal Flaws had an androgynous Japanese baby, he would probably start a band like YYT." Like I said, terrible description. But yesterday was a crazy long and exhausting day and that's what I got. Deal.

Anyway, as my girlfriend put it, "This might be the most interesting band I've ever seen." I'm not so sure I can disagree with Plus One's admittedly hyperbolic assessment. They had me from moshi moshi, delivering a blistering set of sweetly cacophonous psych and filthy ass garage rock. Plus, I couldn't understand a damn thing they were singing about, since no one in the band speaks more than three words of English. But the language barrier somehow made the experience even better. YYT truly speaks the "international language." Rock.

Here's a vid from a show last year at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. It doesn't quite capture the thrill of seeing them live. But it's a decent appetizer — click on the link to their MySpace page above to get a cleaner sampling of their tunes.

If you have the chance, I'm officially requiring you see Yura Yura Teikoku in person. You won't regret it. (NYC readers: they're playing this Friday at MH of W.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Those Are People Who Died

I just heard that Jim Carroll died on Friday of a heart attack. Just thinking about him makes me think of New York City — I discovered The Basketball Diaries shortly after I moved there. I sat across from him on the subway once, too shy to say hello but not shy enough to not stare. Another time I saw him perform at Central Park SummerStage, opening for Richard Hell. He sang a few songs, told a bunch of stories and read some poems, including this one that stuck with me called "8 Fragments for Kurt Cobain."

Genius is not a generous thing
In return it charges more interest than any amount of royalties can cover
And it resents fame
With bitter vengeance

Pills and powders only placate it awhile
Then it puts you in a place where the planet's poles reverse
Where the currents of electricity shift

Your body becomes a magnet and pulls to it despair and rotten teeth,
Cheese whiz and guns

Whose triggers are shaped tenderly into a false lust
In timeless illusion

The guitar claws kept tightening, I guess on your heart stem.
The loops of feedback and distortion, threaded right thru
Lucifer's wisdom teeth, and never stopped their reverberating
In your mind

And from the stage
All the faces out front seemed so hungry
With an unbearably wholesome misunderstanding

From where they sat, you seemed so far up there
High and live and diving

And instead you were swamp crawling
Down, deeper
Until you tasted the Earth's own blood
And chatted with the Buzzing-eyed insects that heroin breeds

You should have talked more with the monkey
He's always willing to negotiate
I'm still paying him off...
The greater the money and fame
The slower the pendulum of fortune swings

Your will could have sped it up...
But you left that in a plane
Because it wouldn't pass customs and immigration

Here's synchronicity for you:

Your music's tape was inside my walkman
When my best friend from summer camp
Called with the news about you

I listened them...
It was all there!
Your music kept cutting deeper and deeper valleys of sound
Less and less light
Until you hit solid rock

The drill bit broke
And the valley became
A thin crevice, impassable in time,
As time itself stopped.

And the walls became cages of brilliant notes
Pressing in...
That's how diamonds are made
And that's WHERE it sometimes all collapses
Down in on you

Then I translated your muttered lyrics
And the phrases were curious:
Like "incognito libido"
And "Chalk Skin Bending"

The words kept getting smaller and smaller
Separated from their music
Each letter spilled out into a cartridge
Which fit only in the barrel of a gun

And you shoved the barrel in as far as possible
Because that's where the pain came from
That's where the demons were digging

The world outside was blank
Its every cause was just a continuation
Of another unsolved effect

But Kurt...
Didn't the thought that you would never write another song
Another feverish line or riff
Make you think twice?
That's what I don't understand
Because it's kept me alive, above any wounds

If only you hadn't swallowed yourself into a coma in Roma...
You could have gone to Florence
And looked in to the eyes of Bellini or Rafael's Portraits

Perhaps inside them
You could have found a threshold back to beauty's arms
Where it all began...

No matter that you felt betrayed by her

That is always the cost
As Frank said,
Of a young artist's remorseless passion

Which starts out as a kiss
And follows like a curse

-Jim Carroll, "8 Fragments For Kurt Cobain"

© 1994 Jim Carroll

In the Can

As an astute reader pointed out earlier today, I've been on a bit of a video roll lately. So let's keep that train a-rolling with this nugget, which is the funniest video I've seen in a quite a while — made even funnier for me, personally, as my lovely girlfriend (you may know her as Plus One) has a disturbing affinity for Bud Light Lime. Happy Monday.

PS- Said astute reader also passed along a nifty music video, which I will post shortly

Friday, September 11, 2009

All Apologies

This just in from Waylon Speed's Noah Crowther (ex-Chuch) and his Left Coast side-project, Giant Acapulco. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Angioplasty (Multi) Media

Well, hello there, Solid State. How ya been?

Don't know if you folks have been keeping tabs on our good friends over at Angioplasty Media, but Nick, Paddy and Co. have had a pretty interesting run of posts lately — in addition to picking up the tattered, screen-printed pieces of late, great booking co-op, Tick Tick, with a sparkling string of Monkey House shows.

Specifically, they've begun a series of live music videos shot at Paddy Reagan's studio. The sixth and latest installment — following a nifty turn from indie-folk fave Vandaveer — features our own alt-country rolling stone, Lowell Thompson.

Here's that vid, and when you have a few minutes to spare, head over to Angioplasty and peruse the others. They're pretty rad, if I do say so myself. Also, they've just posted a killer Rough Francis vid from the band's recent Higher Ground show with Mos Def, courtesy of RF bassist Steve Williams (My First Days on Junk, et al.) and his blog, FuckingRightHandMan. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Grime, Filth and Honesty

Burlington harsh noise. That is perhaps not a phrase uttered often by Queen City residents when referring to their music. These are the type of sounds that have some listeners upset at the very presentation and invasion of such aural abominations, of the composition of harsh and extreme sounds, to be more specific  A form of ambient music, it's the type of music that works on a much more subtler level than most anything else. And I mean on a whole other level. It's the type of stuff that grabs the subconscious and tears it into tiny ribbons. Most are certainly not looking for that type of experience when throwing on a pair of headphones or retreating to the bar for some tunes. But it exists in both spaces.

Home_collageface Grimeology might be Burlington's home and heart for mutilated sounds (or grime) and their co-founder Matthew Mayer — aka A Snake in the Garden — is the man propagating this distinction in Burlington. Grimeology itself is a humble little homegrown outfit started in 2003 with "complete, total, and utter dedication to all sounds filthy, shitty, crusty, dirty, and Grimey®," specializing in cassette tapes and CD-Rs — fitting, in a certain context, to the depth and nature of the sounds found on such hardware. The justification that standardized music media brings would certainly be welcome. But maybe the image wouldn't fit. Or stick. One could derive that Grimeology knows its place in the musical world, truly for better or worse.

Upon entering A Snake in the Garden's studio tracks the vicious assault of feedback arranged into a sound collage of mind-bending violence can be soul shattering at best (or worst). The reaction is certainly down to perspective and there's no arguing with that. It's hard to imagine most even giving the ambiance of noise a chance. But spent more than a moment with, it's certainly interesting. It's hard to note whether that interest might be musically academic or emotional. But it's not a type of expression easily captured through headphones or treble-ridden computer speakers. In fact, in many ways it's impossible.

Live performance is starkly intrinsic to grime. So much so that unlike most music — which can project its emotional energy upon a listener's outstretched mind in almost any context — ambient noise needs the surroundings of the familiar, the untainted, in order to shatter them and mutate them into an unrecognizable atmosphere of filth and energy. The sounds need to touch and squeeze the listener's senses — violently, if need be. It can be toleration in its control over the listener, which is perhaps what is so inaccessible about the style. The bottom line is that grime is music that needs to be experienced and felt, rather than just listened to.

A Snake in the Garden is no exception. I caught one of Mattew's sets a few weeks ago at The Monkey House in Winooski and I left the place shaking. The dramatic effect the set had upon me was certainly a personal interpretation, but it took a particular amount of time to come to grips with my reaction. The atmosphere the sounds created penetrated straight down into a very primal place. The music spoke on an instinctual level that music rarely finds. The place where fight-or-flight rears its head and adrenaline fills the mind. There's a certain amount of trust you have to relinquish in order to be moved, and it would be easy to contextualize the sounds coming from the stage as just "noise" without that trust. The set only lasted about ten minutes.

The most fascinating aspect of the performance was the brutal and utter honesty that Matthew was able to bring to the wreckage. It would be easy to conceptualize composition and hide behind electronics while feedback sputters and drones. But A Snake in the Garden gives you intimate and personal knowledge of the universe that he's created. It's as if you're peering into a small galaxy of life and memory before he destroys it right before your eyes with regret and duty.

A Snake in the Garden is an important part of Burlington whether the city and populace know it or want it. Honest expression is what most musicians strive for, and I've never seen or experienced it as palpably as A S I T G. I will definitely be going out the next time the man is playing in town. 

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