Archive for September, 2005

“Cataclysmic karaoke”

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Man, Stewart Voegtlin at Dusted is absolutely and hilariously spot-on here, re cello quartet Apocalyptica’s efforts to cover Metallica tunes:

Apocalyptica, looking more like a quartet of Vegas magicians than classical musicians, made the egregious mistake of reworking the majority of post-Cliff Burton Metallica into chamber music for high school band choads. Unfortunately, this misstep failed to call the process of “covering” into question. Ideally, “to cover” should not mean, “to shadow;” to lay a pale sheath of onionskin over an original. Covering should maintain some of the original tune’s integrity, but there’s got to be a contribution from artist to source material. Anything other than well-honed personal homage is cataclysmic karaoke.

Ha! This is from his review of Erik Hinds‘ recent album covering Slayer’s Reign in Blood. It’s a facinating work, since Hinds performs his cover renditions solo, on an acoustic instrument. I’m actually not familiar with the original, but I’m still getting some enjoyment out of this cover.

You should read Signal to Noise

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

If you enjoy the sort of avant-rock, avant-jazz, free improv, and other “new musics” (post-rock, various more experimental kinds of indie rock, hip-hop, electronica, and so on) that I enjoy, I implore you to check out the second-best publication in the English language that covers these kinds of music (behind Exposé, of course!): Signal to Noise, the “Journal of Improvised and Experimental Music.” Much more accessible to folks like me than the sometimes inscrutable The Wire, Signal to Noise is a real joy to read and reviews all kinds of stuff we like. The latest issue, for instance, has reviews of Charming Hostess, lots of Cuneiform releases (Machine and the Synergetic Nuts, John Surman, Radio Massacre International), Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, all the latest Cryptogramophone releases (Scott Amendola Band, Mark Dresser/Denman Maroney), Fred Frith, and a big feature review of Miles Davis‘ forthcoming Cellar Door Sessions.

Best of all, they offer the best deal in magazine history — $50 for a complete set of back issues, which is nearly 40 magazines. Jump on it. I did.

Dungen @ the Black Cat

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

Oh, and. I saw Dungen on Sunday night at the Black Cat here in DC (where, incidentally, Ken Vandermark is playing tonight with his Free Music Ensemble, but I don’t think I’m going to make it). It was a decent show. Reine Fiske was having some issues with his guitar (”vintage gear,” he kept muttering) but his work was great — which is a good thing, because unlike on Ta det Lugnt at least, his guitar was way up in the mix and was definitely the focal point of the band. Overall the sound was much more “rock” and less psych/spacey than on record. A favorite piece of mine is one in which Gustav Ejstes pulled out his flute and played a few nice, melodic passages that bookended a white-hot jam or two. If this is on their first album, reissued on 1999-2001, I really need to get that one — especially as multiple people whose opinions I trust tell me that it’s better than Ta det Lugnt. A fun show, if one marred by the crappy sound at the Black Cat.

Oh, and #2. Maybe that Cathedral reunion announcement wasn’t a hoax after all. It’s sort of up in the air now. Go to ProgressiveEars, search for the relevant thread, and see for yourself if you’re curious. I don’t know.

ProgDay ‘05 and Los Jaivas live!

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

It now seems fairly clear that the Cathedral reunion announcement I cited is probably a hoax. Joke’s on me. I should know better: don’t believe everything you read on the Internet — especially bulletin boards.

A couple live shows I saw that I should have mentioned earlier: ProgDay, and Los Jaivas. As regards the former, I actually only saw four of the eight bands due to prior engagements and the fact that my girlfriend lives in Chapel Hill, and my trip down to NC was as much to see her as to see the festival. To be honest, I was totally unexcited by the lineup anyway, and the only band that I was really interested in seeing was Cuneiform chamber-rockers Far Corner; however, I was happy to support the festival by buying two weekend passes, in the hopes that every little bit of help will encourage the organizers to move ahead with a 2006 incarnation.

Far Corner didn’t disappoint. I am lukewarm about their studio disc; it has moments I adore but a lot of the quieter, more ambient parts lose my interest quickly. Their live performance was more intense and rocking than anything on the studio album — including a sweet jam that the band seamlessly segued into after Dan Maske’s keyboard rig lost power during a new composition. William Kopecky was a joy to watch on the fretless bass. After seeing this performance I’m a bit more understanding of the comparisons to other chamber-rockers like Present, and would gladly see these guys again. However, seeing this performance still didn’t do much for my appreciation of the studio album. Oh well.

The first band I saw was The Spacious Mind, which had some moments of brilliance, but I think they’re the reverse of Far Corner in that I’d probably enjoy their studio work better. The long, spacy sections lost my interest live, where in a different environment — say, sitting in my apartment in the dark with headphones on — I could get lost in them instead of them being lost on me. Happy the Man I was as indifferent to live as I am to their records. The band just doesn’t really do it for me, although I did enjoy their extremely high-energy NEARfest show back in 2000.

The next day I saw Far Corner and the Glenn Phillips Band before having to leave. Glenn Phillips is a pretty phenomenal guitarist. Unfortunately, his band is definitely his band, in that they basically play little more than a backing role to his incendiary solos. Fun, but it got old without more compositional rigor — guitar solo after guitar solo, no matter how excellent they were, wasn’t really my bag. I did have a tremendous amount of fun just watching him rock out, though.

Just a few days after the ProgDay weekend I was treated to an amazing outdoor show by Los Jaivas, playing at the Kennedy Center here in DC. The crowd was quite large, probably at least 500 people, most of them Chilean. At times I almost felt like I was at a soccer game. The band was tight and incredibly energetic (and incredibly loud — I was really thankful the show was outside). Since they have an enormous discography — after all, the band was founded over 40 years ago — I didn’t recognize a lot of their set; however, they did play a fair amount of stuff from Alturas de Macchu Picchu and Canción del Sur, stuff I am familiar with. In particular, seeing hundreds of people blissing out to “La Poderosa Muerte,” a truly progressive piece of music in the symph-prog sense, was pretty awesome. Also, seeing the bewildering array of native/traditional instruments used to create the sounds found in those old classics was really fun. In contrast, listening to the studio albums now just doesn’t cut it; the live sound was so much better. An awesome, fun show.

SPV Popul Vuh reissues are ace

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Two thoughts this morning:

The SPV remasters of the entire Popol Vuh catalog are beautiful, and sorely needed given the utterly confusing state of the band’s CD catalog — what with various twofers combining albums in a nonsensical way, or worse, CD reissues that don’t correspond to original albums at all, containing tracks taken from completely different records. And they sound fantastic. However, I do really wish they’d put more effort into the booklets. Every single reissue appears to have the exact same booklet, with a brief history of the band and bios of Florian Fricke. Would it have killed them to have added in a page or two of info about each specific album?

There’s been an announcement circulating that the famed Cathedral, that American one-shot band that released Stained Glass Stories, is reuniting with all original members and recording new material. I haven’t heard their first album and after this announcement don’t have much interest in the new one, thanks to this totally idiotic statement from one of the band members…

“Our newest collections will place you back in the past, where PROG BELONGS. Don’t get too comfortable! You’re going to be selected to land where the future of Progressive Music should have planted it’s heels not long ago!”

Maybe this is tongue-in-cheek, but somehow I don’t think it is. This represents just about exactly the opposite mentality of what I have, so at least now I can cross something off my want list.