Hebrew School

Last Night: The Ex with Gétatchèw Mèkurya, Either/Orchestra with Mahmoud Ahmed and Alèmayèhu Eshèté, Extra Golden at Lincoln Center

via Trent’s flickr.

My goodness, what a show yesterday at the Damrosch bandshell. Hebrew School was stuck at his desk with his Mapai-era ink blotter but managed to telecommute in while fervently texting with folks on the scene. Apart from general encomium about the music, the SMS Mossad reported fantastic audience vibe despite a crisp late-August chill that’s already beginning to hang in the air, inspiringly frenetic African dancing on stage, and Thurston Moore walking through crowd, no longer good-looking. (The last item perhaps not breaking news, but do we not dare to dream?)

I see that EEPEEYEEP has managed to YouTube the plurality of the Ex’s set– here’s the first of eight parts:

And, for what it’s worth, WFMU’s simulcast was excellent, replete with live interviews of many of the musicians between sets. I did take some exception to Katherina Ex’s on-air diss of DJ Rob Weisberg (though I’m somewhat– somewhat?!– biased for having met this sweet fellow and having had the honor to play on his show.) Then again, if the stage announcements were correct and this was truly the Ex’s largest American show in their 30-odd-year history, I can stand a little Dutch edginess. Also, at the time of interview, I think they had about 10 minutes to take the stage.


Office Naps returns!

After announcing an indeterminate hiatus six months ago, Office Naps returned last week with a new post, met by an outpouring of gratitude from DJ Little Danny’s loyal fans. Danny has posted an incredible collection of soul, funk and psych 45s, principally from the ’60s and ’70s. His posts are well-researched and impeccably written, and his knowledge of the music scenes he writes about is astounding. In the past, he’s focused on the lesser-known projects of the somewhat-better-known elsewhere, honed in on the historical doings of industry-noted L.A. session players, and unearthed the riddles hidden in the cryptography of those faded, misprinted circular labels.

The audio blogosphere, after half a decade of vacillating levels of acceptance and reproach within the status-quo music industry, relentlessly perseveres in dishing up the obscure, the forgotten, the overlooked, and the otherwise yard sale-bound. For every brow that’s furrowed, there are thousands of ear drums, thirsty for sound that would likely have never been heard.

With so many items on a given record label’s back catalog going out of print or disregarded in favor of the new and shiny, or the gapingly deficient remastered compilation, I’d venture to say that these blogs carry out an important social function in audio preservation. Where profit-driven labels may claim to do just that via selective reissue, it’s the actual music enthusiasts ripping out-of-print vinyl and putting up mp3s that prevent a processed revisionism of music history. And placement on a well-regarded blog can be much more of a boon for the undiscovered new artist than being approached by a questionable label representative in a seedy club.

That said, here are some more offerings from my aggregator. Enjoy!

Crud Crud – Scott Soriano productively rationalizes his vinyl hording, remembers to eat and sleep.

Diddy Wah – Podcasts, themed posts, and artist posts around an ecumenical array of genres.

Dinosaur Gardens – Retro cold war fear mongering, Jamaican indie, porno 8-tracks

Lost in the ’80s – Sick of the nostalgic wax of this decade? Try the underbelly.

Record Robot – Recent features include a bizarre children’s record, nationalistic “synth ditties” from a marginally-known indie godfather, and a Christian-overtoned night club act singing a CCR medley.

The Strange Experience of Music – Amazing blog, in French (you can always Babelfish it for a rough translation), primarily dealing with ’60s psych of both American and European origin. They’re most known for compiling their own French and Italian versions of the renowned Nuggets compilations.

Sweet Thunder’s Tape Findings – A fascinating collection of found sound, mostly in the form of kids making home recordings on cassette tapes. Listen to the likes of junior high girls extolling the dreaminess of Peter Criss, and a boy from several decades ago wreaking havoc on his little brother while talking about how he threw up at Disney.

Waxidermy – A blog that remains distinctly weird despite its popularity.

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog – Just because.

Kenneth Goldsmith and UbuWeb

Writer, poet, critic, visual artist, radio DJ, and UPenn professor Kenneth Goldsmith– or Kenny G. as he is called on WFMU– seems to have harnessed the improbable for the purposes of everything that’s good about the art world.  Goldsmith is the founding editor of UbuWeb, a large free library of avant-garde text, images, sound, and video. Because of the marginality of much of the content, and its ephemeral nature as commodity, Ubu hosts gigabytes (could it be terabytes?) of content without permission of artists and publishers, while exposing us to amazing works that would otherwise be overlooked.

Some of Ken’s sound works:

Kenneth Goldsmith Sings Roland Barthes (13:05)
Music by The Allman Brothers
Recorded at the WFMU studios, Jersey City, New Jersey, 2006

More on co-host PennSound (I like Traffic, a 3-hour-long 1010 WINS traffic report, and The Weather)

more from Ubu:

Gherasim Luca – Romanian Jewish surrealist

Jerome Rothenberg

Yoko Ono – (film)

Friday show at PLNY

This past Friday night I had the honor of playing with Amanda Huron at Paris London New York West Nile. We had been playing together on and off almost since she moved to Brooklyn from D.C. over two years ago, and tonight was an exciting first time out for us as a duo.

My relation to experimental and noise music (or the various other unreliable terms it gets called in shorthand) has always been tenuous as the scenes they create tend towards a certain self-conscious bravado, particularly among the musicians themselves. This made playing at Paris London refreshing as the majority of the people there were unassumingly sociable and open to all sorts of music.

PLNY is a reasonably sized space in Williamsburg immediately abutting Glasslands (yeah, not the door with the security guard– the other one) run by some folks who live there and also have a record label called Shinkoyo. The non-acoustic performers were set up on a stage that doubles as a kitchen (good considering Myo made use of the range top during his performance).

Amanda and I had a good set; we started on drums and guitar, then flute and trumpet, and then somehow back again in 2 or 3 sections.

Myo and Caustic Castle joined up for the second set, using some creative techniques to make sound (i.e., the kitchen).

Next played Gestures, a delightfully unwieldy acoustic collective (a tuba, two trombones, a clarinetist, two drummers).

Brown Wing Overdrive has pretty much rocked my world from their start (real audio from BWO’s live appearance on Brian Turner’s WFMU show) but they permitted me no lack of amazement on this particular night.

Derek also plays banjo.

Amrita Dang, whose family hails from Delhi, Punjab, and Baltimore, played sitar and sang while she tweaked knobs on what I thought were a pair of electric tanpuras but were actually two digital samplers with real time effects.

Really, really great. Thanks to everyone who came out!

WFMU Record Fair
November 4, 2007, 12:04 pm
Filed under: events, records, wfmu record fair | Tags: , , ,

The WFMU record fair was held this weekend at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street. For those unfamiliar with the fair, for three days, scores of vinyl purveyors (and any other audio format you can think of) set up their tables in a couple thousand square feet of space. WFMU trucks in loads of dollar bins worth of 12″swag from New Jersey (where the station is located) to sell for proceeds to the station. People fly in from L.A. and London. New Yorkers come because NYC can often suck for buying music. Only cash is accepted and you have to walk blocks to find an ATM that has yet to dispense all of its 20s.

It’s massive. It’s overwhelming. And for people like me it provides the sort of high usually only associated with methamphetamines. There is nothing quite like the elated gasp that one exudes when finding, say, that Japanese import of a Dutch no-wave band from 1981, a smattering of which you fell in love with on Waxidermy in 2005. And then there’s the “contact high” of hearing similar gasps all around you.

The record fair is huge– you’re looking at one wing of the space. Record afficionados are not the most sociable bunch– but their eyes light up when you start talking to them about the matter at hand. Most overheard line of conversation: “Yeah, all these used to be cutouts for ages, now everyone wants ’em.”

It didn’t take Jill Vogel long to embrace the spirit of the event.

The event is peppered with live on-site broadcasts and performances. Above, the Lexie Mountain Boys held it down with some highly engaging psych-a cappella.

I spent way too much money on records. What’s in this bag? Stay tuned…

Al Tijuana & His Jewish Brass

I’ve been looking for this one for a while, and, mah rabu ma-asecha Hashem (yep, Her creations clearly are wondrous), it appeared on the WFMU blog Sunday night (obviously sleep was a bad idea). It appeared along with a score of other Tijuana Brass wannabe bands. No, I did not realize there were so many. Al Tijuana, pictured, is none other than comedian Lou Jacobi, arguably known best for his role as a transvestite husband in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).

The album is a mix of TJB standards (“The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Malaguena”), 50s and 60s popular songs, and Jewish classics (“Tsena, Tsena”), interspersed with periodic un-funny quips from Jacobi– “Never on a Sunday? Well we say never on a Saturday!” Compare with Mickey Katz, brilliant parodist and actual musician– admit it, David, you hate it.

Well, okay, but a few shining moments– the theme to Peter Gunn, “A Taste of Honey,” “It’s Not Unusual.”  Not, it’s not.

n.b. Lest you be deterred by the spate of easy listening posts these past few weeks, please remember that I can and do rock. (youtube link)

The Voices Four
August 5, 2007, 5:42 pm
Filed under: records | Tags: , , ,

 My forays into Jewish music, as a means of research for my fellowship project, have brought to the surface some interesting and unexpected finds. While I didn’t necessarily suspect I was doing anything intrinsically “new” by undertaking a Jewish rock project, I’ve been nonetheless surprised with what’s out there.

Endlessly fascinated by kitschy religiosity (which is to say, regularly assaulting my friends’ ears with the likes of this and this) and the cyclical threats undergone by popular music’s gesticulations toward easy listening, my eyes and ears turned unavoidably late ’60s and ’70s-ward. Here, these two phenomena seemed to collide in a very conspicuous way.

I first happened upon the Voices Four while listening to WFMU a while back. Having come of age during the great Twee scare of the 1990s, I was in the midst of a mass episode of discovering and rediscovering bands like Os Mutantes, the Free Design, Odessey-era Zombies, etc. I really only had a vague idea in my head, at that point, of doing something Jewish, but I suppose in retrospect that this was the point where it all came together. (Real Audio link.)

So happy was I that I picked up a vinyl copy on Canadian E-bay for $8, which not only plays great but is signed by lead singer, David Koffman!

Check out more samples of this album at its adopted home here.