electronic


I recently got to talking to Harold, who plays bass in Screentests, about some classic synth sounds, among them the famous orchestra hit sample that showed up in Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock and, subsequently, practically every electro and electro-inspired song of the early- to mid-80s. You know, the one that plays about 0:16 into this video:


Well Harold forwarded me this article which discusses the sample a bit more. It was made by a Fairlight CMI, which is generally credited as the first digital sampling synth. And while the Vice article is pretty informative, I suggest that the true obsessive read Robert Fink’s in-depth academic article tracing the history of the sample.

And while you’re at it, you should check out this meticulously digitized archive of 12 issues of Synapse magazine, an old electronic music magazine, from 1976-1979. There are interviews with Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Devo, Jan Hammer, Patrick Gleeson, and more, plus lots of discussion and analysis of (then-)brand new technology.

And when you tire of reading about synthesizers, why not actually play one over at Patchwerk, a web interface that allows you and up to nine other nerds enthusiasts to tweak some knobs and toggle some switches on the massive Paradiso modular synthesizer at the MIT Museum without leaving your desk. (Though you really should leave your desk every once in a while, what’s wrong with you?)

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As touched on before, I’m playing in a new band these days. We’re called Screentests, and we play music that’s a little bit psych, a little bit dancey, and all hottt jamzzz. Laia sings, I play keys/electronics, Harold plays bass, and Danny plays drums. You can check out and download a bunch of songs on our Soundcloud, and find out what we’re up to on Facebook. And if you’re in NYC, come see us play our second show ever–it’s next Thursday, May 17, at Fontanas on the Lower East Side. We go on at 9.


A few weeks ago the third New York incarnation of the Polish Unsound Festival took place in various locations around NYC, and I, breaking an unfortunate streak of non-show-going, checked out most of it. The correlation between the lineup and the most-played artists on my iphone was pretty astounding. Festival highlights for me were Julia Kent‘s loop-based cello performance at the new Issue Project Room, Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland’s (aka Hype Williams) sensory overload of a set at LPR, Sun Araw‘s spacey, dubby stew of guitar, electronic drum kit, and processed saxophone, and Ital’s infectious energy (plus some pierogies) at Warasaw. Can’t wait to see what the Unsound folks come up with for next year’s festival.

Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland

Sun Araw

Laurel Halo

Ital

Way back. Back to a time when Democrats controlled the House, when despots across the Middle East had nary a care in the world, and when Charlie Sheen was just that super-rich prick on that painfully unfunny sitcom that somehow attracts 10-15 million viewers every week. Yes, folks, we’re going back…to 2010.

Shortly after the new year, I made a couple of mixes of songs from some favorite records of 2010. And now, after a few months of procrastinating, I’ve finally dusted them off, bounced them, and uploaded them to this here blog. Since I think I missed the window for timeliness, I’m thinking maybe I can get away with marketing them as retro. So put down those vuvuzelas and take a listen:

2010 In Review (Electronic)
Right-click here to download.
Track list:

Nancy (Not Her Real Name) – Intro
Javelin – Vibrationz
Games – Heartlands
Sleigh Bells – Rill Rill
Das Racist – Who’s That? Brooown!
Kanye West – Power
Flying Lotus – Computer Face//Pure Being
Stereo Total – Hello Ladies
Tanlines – Real Life
Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal
Emeralds – Double Helix
LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change
The xx – VCR (Four Tet Remix)
Four Tet – Love Cry
Caribou – Leave House
Major Lazer – Jump Up
M.I.A. – XXXO
Crystal Castles – Baptism
Nancy (Not Her Real Name) – Whoop…They Both Ride Horses

2010 In Review (Rock)
Right-click here to download.
Track list:

Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round And Round
Here We Go Magic – Casual
Toro Y Moi – Minors
Nite Jewel – Am I Real?
Best Coast – Boyfriend
Woods – From The Horn
The Corin Tucker Band – Doubt
Marnie Stern – Transparency Is The New Mystery
Zach Hill – House Of Hits
Daughters – The Hit
Harvey Milk – I Alone Got Up And Left
Zs – Acres Of Skin
Joanna Newsom – ’81
Warpaint – Undertow
of Montreal – Coquet Coquette
HEALTH – USA Boys
High Places – The Longest Shadows
Zola Jesus – Poor Animal

Oh, coked-up mid-/late-70s Sly, I’ve got to say…you’re kind of underrated.

Yes, it’s been a while, poor, neglected readers. A lot happened in WW-land after my last post. A new job, a busy summer, a bunch of traveling, another new job, an even busier winter. Tornadoes, hailstorms, blizzards. Quite a first year of Brooklyn-dwelling.

Happily, some stuff has been happening musically too. Luxe Pop is almost done recording our full-length. NNHRN continues to write songs and is starting to put together a live set. I’ve been doing some solo noodling and may start making some punkish noise with former Family Fun bandmate Alexander.

In other words, it’s time to reactivate WW. You can expect some of the fruits of these various projects to be posted here from time to time, as well as other musings on all things musical. And to kick off WW’s 2011 edition, here are some 10 (as in 2010?) word reviews of some of the shows I’ve seen since I last posted (with, in some cases, blurry iPhone pic evidence of same), reverse chronological-like:

Wayne Shorter Quartet (Town Hall, Feb. 9, 2011): Fiery potential, heard on YouTube / live CDs, largely unfulfilled tonight.

Universal Order of Armageddon and Trophy Wife (Cake Shop, Jan. 21, 2011): Hardcore like a kick in the teeth. Ah, the 90s!

Tom Harrell Quintet (Village Vanguard, NYC, Nov. 26, 2010): Forgot how much I dig his lyrical tone. So underrated!

Tom Harrell

Joanna Newsom (Carnegie Hall, NYC, Nov. 23, 2010): Yes, I will see her every time she’s in NYC.

Paul Bley and Charlie Haden (Blue Note, NYC, Nov. 20, 2010): Standards stretched to extremes overcome late-middle-aged couple groping nearby

Tame Impala (Bowery Ballroom, NYC, Nov. 18, 2010): More psych revival. I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse.

Tyshawn Sorey (The Stone, NYC, Nov. 11, 2010): Solo drummer, cymbal-scraping, plucked piano strings, etc. Works for me.

Van Dyke Parks (Bell House, Brooklyn, Oct. 2, 2010): Odd ensemble, very odd songs, very, very odd old man.

Van Dyke Parks

Chick Corea w/ Christian McBride and Brian Blade (Highline Ballroom, NYC, Oct. 1, 2010): What Wayne’s group should have been. Abstract, searching, practically telepathic.

Belle and Sebastian (Williamsburg Waterfront, Brooklyn, Sept. 30, 2010): Balmy summer’s end breeze perfect compliment to beloved songsters’ classics.

The Very Best, Warpaint, Zola Jesus (Holocene, Portland, Sept. 24, 2010): Second fix of Warpaint and Zola, then killer dance party.

The Very Best

Of Montreal, Janelle Monae (Terminal 5, NYC, Sept. 18, 2010): Reliably fun oM show. Don’t get the Monae hype though.

of Montreal

Dirty Projectors (Terminal 5, NYC, Sept. 11, 2010): One question: how the fuck do they do that live?

Oneida (Monster Island Block Party, Brooklyn, Sept. 4, 2010): Gorgeous biking day, happen upon kickass noise rock show. Sweeeeeet.

Oneida

Javelin and Warpaint (Whitney Museum, NYC, Aug. 13, 2010): Dreamy high end meets funky low. Plus local hip-hop(ish) faves.

Whitney Crowd/Tops of Warpaint’s Heads

Javelin

Hard NYC w/ M.I.A., Die Antwoord, Skream, Sleigh Bells (Governor’s Island, NYC, July 24, 2010): Invasive security, irritating rappers, torrential rain. Want my $50 back.

Blevin Blectum (Issue Project Room, Brooklyn, July 23, 2010): More abstract than expected, but definitely glad I caught her.

Blevin Blectum

Pitchfork Festival w/ (acts that I saw) Modest Mouse, Robyn, LCD Soundsystem, Panda Bear, Wolf Parade, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Raekwon, Titus Andronicus, Pavement, Sleigh Bells, Neon Indian, Major Lazer, Here We Go Magic, St. Vincent, Lightning Bolt, Beach House, Washed Out, Girls, Best Coast (Union Park, Chicago, July 16-18, 2010): Super well run festival. 90s noise punk duo steals show.

Lightning Bolt Crowd

Pitchfork Fest Bike Parking

Caribou (Millennium Park, Chicago, July 12, 2010): Favorite 2010 live act (ok, except tUnE-yArDs). And for free?!?

Unrest/Tuscadero (Bell House, Brooklyn, July 5, 2010): See above re the 90s. Some great indie pop too.

Caribou, Toro Y Moi (Bowery Ballroom, NYC, Bowery Ballroom, May 8, 2010): Live show really doesn’t capture opener’s production chops on record.

Caribou

Chick Corea w/ Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian (Bill Evans Tribute) (Blue Note, NYC, May 6, 2010): Possibly my second favorite pianist’s homage to possibly my first.

Washed Out (Bell House, Brooklyn, May 5, 2010): Another contemporary band whose awesome record just doesn’t translate live.

Gang Gang Dance (Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 22, 2010): Great sound, but some songs drag. Others seem absolutely endless.

I recently went to the record release show for Glenn Branca’s The Ascension: The Sequel at Le Poisson Rouge. First, the show. It was loud. And it was kind of awesome. 4 guitars, bass, and drums with Branca conducting. The man himself was in full curmudgeonly form–for one past example, see his op-ed for the Times on “The End of Music“–but it was clear he was in fact enjoying himself. As was the packed house. Some kind soul–who, incidentally, must have been standing more or less directly behind me–put some clips on youtube, including this one. It’s pretty far away and the first 1:30 or so is spoken introduction and chatter (including Branca’s above-quoted suggestion regarding earplugs, which thankfully I ignored) but the sound is good:


And last week I was back at LPR for a great mixed bill: first, Sam Amidon made me remember that I do like some folk/americana-type music after all, then Daniel Bjarnason hit the stage with a 16-piece orchestra for a too-short set, and finally, the Danish band Efterklang played a set that kind of blew me away. Partly that’s because I had only heard a handful of their songs in relatively low fidelity versions online–a sure way to miss the richness and fullness of their sound. And partly it’s because they are a phenomenal live band–musicians periodically jump over to a mic to add unexpected vocal harmonies, drummers pick up trumpets mid-song to blow dramatic lead lines, gurgling electronic loops and squawks weave seamlessly in and out of lush acoustic arrangements, and everyone just generally dances and roams around the stage with tons of energy. There are some pics up at Brooklyn Vegan, and there are a couple of vids of the LPR show on youtube but I’d say this one, from Swedish TV, is pretty representative:


So why the frequent visits to Poisson Rouge? I’m glad you asked. It turns out that one can purchase a membership for a year or two at a time and, among various other perks, can attend certain shows–Branca and Efterklang, for example–for free. With a guest no less. Just another way the folks at this venue are thinking outside the box. And I dig it.