A Fly On The Wall To The Sticky Oatmeal Of Consumer Misery
by Thomas Schulte
It could be wurst
Outsight brings to light non-mainstream music, film, books, art, ideas and opinions.
Published, somewhere, monthly since July 1991. Feel free to re-print this article.
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Ratings are (1) = :(, (5) = 🙂
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NEWS AND VIEWS
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em•.
R.E.M. puts its entire new CD release in MP3 format up on its myspace.com page. This made for an exclusive sneak peek at the entire CD that you could not hear anywhere else• Listen to or buy at Amazon.com
Trummerflora Takes You Back
The Trummerflora Collective launches the “history” pages. This is the newest addition to its Website. In these pages you will find not only the history of Trummerflora but articles about the collective, writings by its members, press releases and series archives. Originally launched in January of 2000 as a resource site for creative music in the San Diego area and later redesigned as the collective Website, visitors can now find out what Trummerflora has been up to over the past four years. The Trummerflora Collective is an independent group of music makers that embraces the pluralistic nature of creative music as an important means of artistic expression for the individual and the community, and provides an atmosphere that nurtures the creative development of its members.
DVD NEWS & REVIEWS
Slayer Still Reigning DVD
The new Slayer DVD Still Reigning is released this month, in late October (American Recordings/UME). The DVD will open with the band’s 1986 album Reign In Blood performed live in its entirety by the line-up of Tom Araya (vocals, bass), guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, and drummer Dave Lombardo. Still Reigning also offers bonus material including live performances of Slayer classics such as “War Ensemble”, “Hallowed Point”, “Necrophobic”, and “South of Heaven”, as well as exclusive interviews and backstage footage. The DVD runs approximately 70 minutes and was directed by Dean Karr (Iron Maiden, Marilyn Manson).
Swing Era Series
Idem Home Video’s Swing Era DVD series distributed through Music Video Distributors continues with new titles released in July and August. This excellent, entertaining series adds several new chapters. As I have said before, these are typically titled after one artist, but they often contain as many as a half-dozen different jazz greats and the focus is more on big band and jazz vocalists than the title would suggest. Often these added, non-title artists are more obscure and rarely seen on DVD releases, so I will try to draw attention to those as they are more of interest to collectors… The Dizzy Gillespie DVD for Jivin’ in Be-Bop is a post-WW II concert film when Dizzy’s big band included John Lewis (piano), Milt Jackson (vibes) and Ray Brown (bass). This is a variety show format that loses nothing in the absence of the MC presentations. Songs include “Salt Peanuts”, “Shaw ‘Nuff” and more• The Stan Kenton DVD features his classically influenced big band music (“Reed Rapture”, etc.) in the setting of a funny film about an expansive, pre-Internet jukebox network where some overwhelmed ladies play each request disc back at HQ. This DVD includes soundies from Charlie Barnet, Les Brown and Claude Thornhill.
While the Duke Ellington entry In Hollywood features the widely available Black and Tan (1929) medium-length film there are altogether eight short and medium-length films with an interesting, detailed look into the vinyl record manufacturing process• Of course, The King of Swing, Benny Goodman gets a Swing Era entry, but this could just as much be said to be an Artie Shaw DVD. Shaw’s overview of the big band is the classic jazz answer to Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”. This DVD also includes Jimmy Dorsey, Hoagy Carmichael and Jack Teagarden soundies
Before Aretha Franklin had the title “Queen of the Blues”, this was bestowed upon Dinah Washington. Her Swing Era is an overview of female jazz vocalists including Martha Davis (“Vipity Vop”, etc.), Ruth Brown (“Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean”, etc.), Faye Adams, Dorothy Dandridge (“Zoot Suit”, etc.), Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mabel Lee, June Richmond, Vanita Smythe (“They Raided the Joint”) and Edna Mae Harris
Count Basie Swing Era also has Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Joe Turner, Henry “Red” Allen, Gene Krupa, Lucky Millinder and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson• George Shearing Swing Era has Mel Torm•, Slam Stewart Trio, Slim Gaillard, The Bob Cats, Ralph Flanagan and Tony Pastor•
Each month I try to find a CD or two sent to me that might not make it for my largely energetic radio show or get me excited enough to write about at length here. However, these CDs are the perfect, soporific audio to drift off to sleep to. Mind, you this is not a slam against the CDs. Indeed, I am recommending them for relaxation. This month Lesley Spencer’s Joy Garden (Gabriella Music) did the trick. The Chicago-based Spencer’s album is pleasant piano pop with the backing of a hip, jazz-pop ensemble featuring guitarist Fareed Haque.
Now next to the pillow spins the instrumental sounds of E.S.T. whose acronyms suggest I might get some E.S.P. out of my R.E.M. The album is Seven Days of Falling (215 Music and Media). It is acoustic piano jazz with visitations of hip, nu-electronica. It is a two-disc set with a DVD of a live Stockholm performance.
The White Stripes
Morphing the Blues
Usually the allure of unauthorized rock ‘n’ roll band biographies is the sex and drugs part of the equation. This tome focuses on Jack White of the alt-blues duo and while he may say, “I’m Finding It Harder to be a Gentleman,” Gentleman Jack has left no such titillating muck for British journalist Martin Roach to rake. Roach subtitles his book “And The Strange Relevance of Detroit”. Indeed, as one living in greater Detroit, I say it must be strange to a Brit who while offering a spectrum of sources such as guitarist Mick Collins (The Dirtbombs, The Gories), producer Jim Diamond and Johnny Szymanski (The Henchmen) largely offers the views of Neil Yee and Gary Graff to put Detroit and The White Stripes in perspective. Thus he dips deeply from eddies at the source of the river (Yee ran seminal club The Gold Dollar where bands like The White Stripes played for 50 or less fans) to the muddy confluence at the end (Graff is founding editor of MusicHound Rock and yaks it up with FM jocks on air). In the end we get the context that gave birth to The White Stripes as if explained by visiting aliens trying to understand it all. Still, this is an interesting read with complete overviews, often track by track, of the albums. The indexed book with official and bootleg discographies makes for a good reference on The White Stripes although it may not be particularly illuminating without the participation of the private and reclusive pair. Be prepared for such proofreading lapses in this breezy account as the Black Sabbath guitarist referred to as “Tommy Lommi” and The Flaming Lips simply as “Flaming”. Roach does go far to explain if not ponder much of the group’s symbolism and the equivocal, guarded relationship between Meg and Jack White. (3.5)
Time Travel is Possible
Andrew Octopus is here experimenting with electronic music. Andrew gravitates toward a jerky repetition that at first will have you thinking you are experiencing CD jitter. At times, this tight, oscillating motion distills into an edgy melody, as on “Stroboscopic Robitussin Hoedown”. However, I think Andrew Octopus is at his best when he explores the surrealistic possibilities of analyzing by repetition small clauses of speech as in “Body” and the Burroughs-quoting “All Recordings”. (2.5)
Gonga is possessed of the heavy marijuana haze of the best and proudest of the stoner genre, as on the instrumental “Pocket Scientist”. (The group started as an instrumental trio.) However what separates this group and suggests great potential is the accessible pop-tilted hard rock sound of “Burnt Honey”. This British quartet could be the son of Monster Magnet. Lingering over heavy instrumental passages and delivering vocals with the simplicity and weight of Stonehenge is what makes the lengthy songs on this album succeed through smart and understated arrangement. This is recommended if you like Kyuss, Earth and early Black Sabbath. (4)
Harmony And Abyss
Matthew Shipp employs the high-pitched backing of violins on the opening “Ion”. While not enough to be called “silken” or “lush” or even bear comparison to anything Mantovani, this is a formula that has, arguably, signaled the decline of greater jazz giants. That seems to be the theme of this disc, though. Along with the prevalent breakbeat overlay to the piano romp “New ID”, Shipp seems to be exploring how far he can stretch his idiom and not be tainted by pop affectation. In seeking “harmony”, Shipp stares into the abyss of shallowness. Beware Shipp, for as Nietzsche pointed out, “the Abyss stares also into you”. (3.5)
Touch My Heart
A Tribute To Johnny Paycheck
Singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks produced this tribute to the legendary country star and his popular and darker, lesser-known songbook. Here recording Johnny Paycheck songs are Neko Case, Mavis Staples, Dave Alvin, Buck Owens and more. It is a good assembly of established and new talent. This album does much to explore the depth and extravagance of Paycheck’s melancholy musings, which go much further than “Take this Job and Shove It” would suggest. (It is interesting note that Paycheck is best known for singing this song, but it was actually written by David Allen Coe and not entirely like Paycheck’s own songwriting.) This is an excellent album of superb songs done by superlative artists. (4.5)
Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution
The Beakers is made unique by the jerky, art-damaged sax blowing by Jim Anderson. Guitarist/vocalist Mark E. Smith (not of The Fall) goes for a heady, reaching voice that recalls David Byrne ala “Psycho Killer”-era Talking Heads. The angular guitar works with the sax in the post-punk arrangements that recall James Chance & The Contortions. This all makes sense given that this is largely unreleased material from The Beakers, a group extant 1980-1981.
“Trying to make sense out of this instrument/trying to make a sound that’s interesting”. These lyrics of the album opener “Microtron” shows Liars Academy at their most interesting in this audio chronicle of probing self-exploration. At points such as this, the band is as comparable to Elvis Costello as indie rock. The Costello part is good, but the indie rock part is generic. While this may be the most mature Liars Academy album yet, the group has to opt for something less formulaic to truly “make a sound that’s interesting”. (2.5)
In an era when teen angst and dense arrangements collide in indie rock to create a bland spectrum of muddy mediocrity, The Insomniacs carries a torch for crystalline and bright pop songs hearkening back to the beat ballads of the seminal ’60s. The dulcet garage pop melodies on this album are lightly seasoned at times with fuzz and Eastern psych. (3.5)
The Single Petal Of A Rose
Out of Time Music Co.
Subtitled “Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar, Vol. 2”, this is the second excellent odyssey of the Ellington oeuvre Hancoff has made with the acoustic guitar. Hancoff has gotten right into Ellington’s works and reincarnated them from the inside out as elegant guitar pieces. This collection spans the chronological spectrum of Duke’s work from early 1920s material (“The Creeper”, “Goin’ to Town”) to the darker realm of grieving over the loss of his mother in 1935 and thereafter (“I’m in Another World”, “Gypsy Without a Song”, etc.) and onto the final period 1951-1974 when trends left Ellington and Ellington turned to serious composition (“Serious Serenade”, “Isfahan”, etc.). The CD of beautiful instrumental guitar comes with a thick booklet of photographs and notes on the origins of each of the 18 pieces presented. Interestingly, Hancoff never felt it necessary to record any of the obvious choices. Such Ellington hits as “Sophisticated Lady”, “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Take the ‘A’ Train” are not found on either album and are not necessary. (5)
Venus Fly Trap
Using sparse but potent beats, Venus Fly Trap creates a dramatic, cinematic sweep of post-industrial goth-glam that recalls Bowie and Bauhaus, Joy Division and Kraftwerk. The classic science fiction themes (“Metropolis”, “Naked Ape”) would make Philip K. Dick proud.
Songs Of Struggle And Resistance From Around The World
This unique compilation of world music exposes the listener to protest songs from America (Pete Seeger, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy”) to Zimbabwe (Paite Rima, “Stella Chiweshe”). This is not the caterwauling of a bunch of trade unionists singing strike anthems around the burning barrel, but rather largely bright and upbeat melodies with choruses that “•may not move me or mean a great deal to me, But hey! It feels so groovy to say”. The detailed booklet describes the songs of Gabon, Jamaica, Ireland and more, so that while you are enjoying humming and singing along you will have some idea of the radical ideas you are vocalizing, even if you do not know the language. This is the bellwether release of the new WorldSpirit line from Ellipsis Arts. Rather than geographically packaged compilations like Putumayo (although the packaging is surprisingly similar) where the surprise is gone after the first track, these releases will be themed, tying together different cultures.
David Thomas & Two Pale Boys
18 Monkeys On A Dead Man’s Chest
Pere Ubu frontman David Thomas presents a focused and driven release that at times borders on the harrowing. This certainly is exciting, visceral music. The orchestrated collisions of brass, guitar and electronics causes data panic in the post-modern day and age. Andy Diagram’s electric trumpets and the guitar and violin of Keith Molin• expresses Thomas’ most malevolent metaphors in songs like “Numbers Man” as well as supporting the pace-wrecking theremin ballad “Little Sister”. Issues of pacing and uneven mood aside, this is one good record.
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