Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution (1967) - CBS News with Leonard Bernstein
I realize nobody is actually reading this but I like to pretend because it motivates me to to actually write something in the posts. So, for anyone out there… if you read and sit through just one post from this blog let it be this one.
Leonard Bernstein was a cool guy. He was known for a lot of things including: conducting the New York Philharmonic, composing a plethora of music (West Side Story, operas, symphonies, etc. etc.), writing and playing the piano. But his contributions as ambassador of pop music for shocked and incredulous adults is fascinating and priceless. The videos below are from a CBS News special from 1967. Its purpose was to try to bridge the ever widening generational gap of the time. Keep in mind that 1967 was nearing the 60’s musical peak (the highest peak ever for pop music?). Adults at the time went from barber shop quartets to Jimi Hendrix humping his guitar and setting it on fire in a span of about 5 years. That’s a pretty harsh break.
So please watch the videos. They are an amazing historical document and immensely entertaining… especially if you love music. Bernstein’s approach to explaining the conondrum is flawless. The ease with which he deconstructs and explains music from The Beatles and Brian Wilson, among others, is not only engaging but eye opening. I could listen to him do that for hours.
For some strange reason the embed option was removed for the last video. Never fear, you should be able to watch it on youtube. By the way, in this video Brian Wilson does a demo version of Surf’s Up for Bernstein!
Paul Cary - The Curse of China Bull
Paul Cary is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Before going solo work he played with The Horrors as vocalist and guitarist. Not sure why it has taken me so long to stumble upon his music. He split an EP with Thee Oh Sees in 2009 and was part of the SXSW line-up this year. Anyway, this is a pretty good album. Gritty, hobbling, outsider blues… Did I mention it is a free (and legal) download over at Candy Dinner?
Favela on Blast (trailer)
So it looks like ethno fat beat maker Diplo (in collaboration with Leandro HBL) made a movie. Everyone is familiar with Major Lazor, his collaborative venture into a Jamaican dance hall concept with Switch (somewhat of a conceptual project). However it seems he is getting more and more involved with Brazilian Baile Funk. Bonde do Rolê is a Mad Decent recruit and poster band for Baile Funk in the US. I suppose that from all the investigation into this music spawned the movie. It looks like a movie told from the eyes and ears of a musician who is absolutely enamored and fascinated with the culture, people and sounds that come with the party music from the favelas.
Download it at 720p for 5 bucks here.
Ty Segall - Imaginary Person + Gloria (live video)
From San Fransisco, California. He’s quite involved in the DIY garage rock movement coming out of San Fran. He has split EPs with Thee Oh Sees, collaborated with Sic Alps, and good buddies with Sonny & the Sunsets (also coming to Primavera Sound this year). He plays drums, guitar, vocals… It is a shame I’ve come on to his music so late. This is going to be really energetic live experience. Just listen to the whole album and you will see what I mean. I have a good feeling. Can’t wait!
Factory Floor - Lying
Factory Floor are a post-punk (an almost completely meaningless term) band from London. Their sound reminds me of a futuristic dystopic movie about a nihilistic people and their repetitive machine music. Or they could be a Borg top 40 band. Either way, I definitely recommend. The audio space is sparse and minimal. I really enjoy the unexpected beat changes and the very satisfying build-ups to cacophony. I can definitely hear a bit of Suicide (also will be at Primavera Sound this year) inlfuence in their music as well. Probably a good live band.
Esquivel and His Orchestra - The Peanut Vendor (El Manisero)
Juan García Esquivel (January 20, 1918 – January 3, 2002) often simply known as Esquivel!, was a Mexican band leader, pianist, and composer for television and films. He is recognized today as one of the foremost exponents of a sophisticated style of largely instrumental music that combines elements of lounge music and jazzwith Latin flavors. Esquivel is sometimes called “The King of Space Age Pop” and “The Busby Berkley of Cocktail Music.” Esquivel is considered one of the foremost exponents of a style of late 1950s-early 1960s quirky instrumental pop that became known (in retrospect) as “Space Age Bachelor Pad Music”. -via wikipedia
I’ve been hitting Esquivel! hard lately. Especially with spring in blossom it seems like there is never a wrong moment for Esquivel. So with this in mind I’m going to dedicate a little more verbiage than I normally do.
Esquivel had a lost album called “See it in Sound”. He recorded it in 1960, but due to concerns over its commercial viability it never saw light until 1998 after someone finally wised up and put some money behind it. This album is a pretty amazing experience. I imagine that he took a lot from his experience from scoring cinema and TV to make this album. Apart from enjoying it on a purely musical level, when I finish listening to the album I feel like I just got back from somewhere really cool. Hard to describe. On a musical level, it’s not just a novel use of soundscaping. Occasionally Esquivel isn’t afraid to let the samples’ knickers show by purposely exposing the loop end points in somewhat of a fourth wall fashion. The music really does have a narrative with an arc and a conclusion. As for “The Peanut Vendor (El Manisero)”, think of it as a trailer for a movie. Its the first track and I dont want to give away the ending. The pacing is really nice. Before you know it your foot will be tapping and then almost just as quickly feel disappointment as it ends and fades into the next scene. High art.
I should mention… Unfortunately 1998 wasn’t very kind to Esquivel’s album artwork so instead I posted some of his earlier covers.
Suuns - Armed for Peace
Suuns (formerly called Zeroes) are from Montreal. They will be playing (on a Thursday) the Parc del Forum stage at Primavera Sound this year. Their sound is dark, droney, synth laden, with falsetto vocals, sometimes downright danceable… They have some moments during the album that remind me quite a bit of Colder. But still, lots of guitar and drums so they dont steer too far from rock roots. They sound like they would be fun to see live. Looking forward to it.
Frank Zappa - The Gumbo Variations
Frank Zappa was über prolific. That’s part of the reason it has taken me this long to get to him. There is just so much to go through and every release is unique. Stylistically he was all over the place and nowhere at the same time. Hard to define. Also, for being a legend in pop history Zappa hasn’t gotten a whole lot of air time. So, a lot of the tunes were new to me when I first heard them (opposite effect of the Beatles). On top of it all, Zappa wasn’t the most selective person. In my opinion there is a lot of stuff that clouds the view to the true gems.
“The Gumbo Variations” is basically a 17 min white hot jam session. Bass guitar, sax and drums are off the hook. By the way, I don’t want to miss lead anyone. Anyone expecting the other tracks on this album to sound smilar to this will be surprised. Like I said; all over the place. Did I mention he was kind of crazy and a provocateur?
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The Feelies - The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness
“Of the countless bands to emerge from the New York City underground during the post-punk era, few if any were as unique and influential as the Feelies; nerdy, nervous, and noisy, even decades later their droning, skittering avant-garde pop remains a key touchstone of the American indie music scene.” - AllMusic.com
For me this another one of those legendary bands that I had never heard of. When I heard them for the first time I had an immediate connection. Nervous tempo, jangley guitars, no fuss bass line. When I listen to them I can hear The Talking Heads, The Velvet Underground, sometimes even a bit of Joy DIvision.
The Black Keys - Busted + You’re Touch (live)
The Black Keys are two guys (just guitar and drums) from Akron, Ohio. They draw heavily from the blues. In fact quite a few of their songs are old obscure blues man covers. They are pretty well known and respected, so no discovery here. However, often I have a craving to hear something raw with heavy distortion and minimal set-up. The Black Keys always deliver this for me…loud, crunch, minimal. This track is from their first album, The Big Come Up. Would love to catch them live if I ever have the chance.
The Ladies - Black Ceaser/Red Sonja
The Ladies are Zach Hill and Rob Crow from Southern California. The Ladies is/was(?) one of their many side projects. There isn’t a whole lot of information about them, but unfortunately it seems like it was a short lived side project. They made a little bit if a stir when their album dropped back in 2006. I haven’t heard or seen much since. Black Ceaser/Red Sonja is the lead track off this, their only album. It set the tone for everything else in the way it falls apart and then puts itself back together again. They manage to create quite a unique sound. I recommend listening the album as a whole. It is quite short! Oh, and the drums are ridiculous (especially on other tracks from the album).
CFCF - Crystal Mines + video interview
CFCF is an electronic musician from Montreal. His brand of Electro/Italo disco is understated but detail oriented. I first heard of him on the Health//Disco remixes but apparently that is just the tip of the iceberg where remixes are concerned. Anyhow, this track is from an album I’ve been enjoying lately called Panesian Nights. Just with a quick listen you can tell that he must be quite the music geek. The video interview above will confirm this. Perfect music to work to.
Holy Fuck - Red Lights
Holy Fuck are from Canada. They make electronic music but without computers or backing tracks. Its all generated live with found objects (35mm film synchronizer, toy phaser guns, etc.) and instruments. Their live shows boil over with energy and sound which tends to make the crowd verge on ecstatic, but don’t take my word for it. Looks they will be performing at Primavera Club this November so hopefully I’ll get to catch them a second time.
Gold Panda - You
Gold Panda is from London. He has made a name for himself making remixes for other musicians(Bloc Party, Lemonade, etc.) along with with a single here and there. This is from his first LP called Lucky Shiner. Pretty amazing sound detail as a whole and lots of diversity. Definitely worth a listen with the a nice pair of headphones!
You can check out most, if not all, the songs on his new LP on his SoundCloud page.
Came across these guys today. They are from France and what makes their particular take on beatboxing interesting is their embracing of technology. From their myspace page:
”Two of the best French beatboxers meet in a show that combines musicality, interaction and performance. Ezra and L.O.S as multi instrumentalists and DJs, create sound material that they can be free to transform with a single machine programmed for them.
Gradually becoming bionic, they will replicate endlessly and creating spellbinding percussive orchestrations they control the fingertip…”
You can’t see much of what is going on technologically in this video. However, in this video it looks like they are using TouchOSC. Anyway, very interesting and perhaps more importantly, it sounds good.