Fans of the Silver Jews often recognize the lyrical genius of songwriter and founding constant member David Berman. The band formed in 1989, as an indie rock band in New York by Pavement members, Steve Malkmus, Bob Nastanovich with Berman. The trio collaborated, recording lo-fi tapes in their living rooms. Silver Jews were often promoted or known as a Pavement side band which continued to haunt Berman for years until the bands’ break up in 2009.Continue reading →
by William Vance
When Robert Moog sold his first vacuum-tube theremin kit back in the early 1950s, one would scarcely imagine he envisioned the world-changing impacts of his inventions upon the music industry. We have come to love these sounds over the past half-century and can quickly pinpoint the rich and warm analog timbres of a Moog synthesizer from Eddie Van Halen to Michael Jackson records and more.Continue reading →
Like you I am sitting here thinking about Roky Erickson. I heard the news that he passed away two days ago. Sad news. Since I was on my computer when I heard the news, my immediate reaction was to check my ipod, and load up a few 13th Floor Elevators songs I had not heard in a while. A fairly pitiful reaction I admit. But I did not know the man personally, I knew his music; so that is where I went to find solace and a connection.
Upon the occasion of Yennayer, the Amazigh (Berber) New Year, in January, I had the opportunity to host Algerian musician, Moh Alileche, on Freeform Portland to talk about Amazigh culture and politics. The Amazigh people are indigenous to northern Africa, having lived throughout the Maghreb region for many thousands of years. There are a number of Amazigh subgroups, including the Kabyle and the Tuareg (Tamasheq), the spread of whose traditional homes long predate the postcolonial national borders that exist today.
Western influences in Japanese pop music can be found starting 100 years ago. Jazz journeyed back over the Pacific on steamers by citizens traveling abroad, first in sheet music form, and then as 78s. It was a woman singer named Sumako Matsui who got it all going, in 1914, with a shellac side called “Katyûsya No Uta” which sold an unheard-of 20,000 copies. It was the beginning of a genre called ryûkôka (‘fashionable songs’). The trend continued into the 1920s as the recording industry matured and began cross-marketing music and cinema, with Chiyako Sato’s title track from the film “Tokyo March” so successful, it caused one critic to worry that “the taste of the citizens of Tokyo will become depraved beyond salvation.” As in the West, patriarchal fears of feminine empowerment were palpable as modernity and capitalism upended traditional gender roles. Japan’s militarist expansion from 1936-45 resulted in the banning of western music, but America’s postwar occupation brought Kasagi Sizuko’s runaway hit “Tôkyô Boogie-Woogie” whose lyrics incorporated words like ukiuki (‘buoyant’) and zukizuki (‘throbbing’) to rhyme with boogie-woogie.Continue reading →
There will always be a region of the music world for which any concession to visual flair is considered anathema, where Vans and sensible jeans are the rule. Y’all do y’all, but Sparks will have no truck in that neck of the woods. Ron and Russell Mael — the two weirdo brothers that are group’s only consistent members — are excellent musicians and caustically funny lyricists whose best work spans prog, disco, and post-everything alien pop, but their visual presentation has always been just as integral to the overall package.
At the beginning of this year, Maximum Rocknroll announced that their print publication would be ending its 37 year run. The May issue would be its last. When the news broke, many readers of MRR, from the infrequent to the avid, were upset with the magazine’s announcement. MRR was a mainstay of the independent punk scene, and had endured the many ups and downs of punk’s history. MRR had survived the death of its founder Tim Yohannon, punk breaking into the mainstream, the rise of the internet and the many, many times punk was declared dead. MRR was loved, hated, and more often than not treated with indifference because it was just assumed that Maximum Rocknroll would always be around.
It does not happen as often as it used to, but I am sometimes still met with a quizzical face, when I mention that Echo & The Bunnymen are one of my favorite bands. I find this odd, as the band has been a going concern since 1978, recording and releasing albums, growing ever more popular with each release. Their U.S. popularity hit its height with songs such as “The Killing Moon”, “Bring on the Dancing Horses” & “Lips Like Sugar,” all of which have been featured in television shows and feature films.Continue reading →
Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes (2018) is a documentary directed by Swedish filmmaker Sophie Huber telling the story of the legendary Blue Note jazz label from their humble beginnings to present. Huber’s film documents the ambition and inclusion of Blue Note through its German Jewish immigrant founders, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, who started Blue Note in New York, in 1939. Blue Note began as an independent jazz label in an era where xenophobia and racism were social norms. The Blue Note story is paramount because it highlights the collaborative relationships between German Jewish immigrants and African American musicians. The film features interviews with legendary jazz musicians, Herbie Hancock, Lou Donaldson and Wayne Shorter plus commentary with contemporary jazz artists, Robert Glasper, Ambrose Akinmusire and Norah Jones. The film also features rare archival footage with John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis and newer recording sessions contrasting the intersectionalities and positionalities between jazz and hip hop with interviews including Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest) and Terrace Martin (hip hop producer). Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes is Huber’s second documentary after her debut and critically acclaimed first documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012).Continue reading →
It’s never been quite enough to correct the mainstream record, but lots of ink has been spilled over the years on how punk rock’s truest, bluest bug juice first bubbled to the surface not in New York or London, but in Cleveland, Ohio, a full couple years before anyone rolled over and told Joey Ramone the news. Cleveland’s under-nurtured early ’70s freak scene was, in this writer’s estimate, punk’s form and spirit at its most undiluted, and almost definitely its furthest off the wall.