Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Mommy's Little Cholo

Me imagino a mí mismo uno vatos and will dress like a cholo on weekends. Manic Hispanic are a one joke outfit but manage to remake Social Distortion's Mommy's Little Monster into something that gives an insight into the lives of these tragic characters.

             "Her eyes are like a racoon
              She wasn't born with a silver spoon
              Hairspray up to the sky
              Teardrop tattooed under her eye"

Last of my holiday songs til I finish listening through the rest of the tapes. Orale, homes!


Bandcassette is the New Camp Culture

I fancy myself a doyen of cassette culture as a former maker and exchanger of self-produced music tapes. I wonder if there is a market on Bandcamp for 35 year old home recordings. Lets find out.

Meanwhile, Jaw Harp Potential present their epic. Their anthem. Their Stairway to Heaven. Their Freebird. It's overwrought and I like it. Steady on the accordion there.

Bandcamp is the New Cassette Culture

If you make a recording for a record company or if you produce any art with the intent of selling it, it is only natural that you have at least a partial eye on the impact of said artwork. At least part of your effort has gone into thinking about how your piece will be received. Recording for a record company emphasises this point still further with engineers and producers and record execs to approve your product before it is allowed to reach market. Sooner or later, you end up making a compromise and more often than not you want to make that compromise and receive the approval of an audience.

Bandcamp is a site where anyone can upload music they have made and decide whether to charge or not to charge for access to it, or in some cases to allow downloaders to make a voluntary contribution of an amount of their own choosing. If you are giving away what you have created there should be no need for you to make a compromise and no need for you to address the desires of an audience.

Jaw Harp Potential are three girls from somewhere in America who have recorded a few songs and put them on Bandcamp. They do not have what you could call a typical rock group line-up and write and record in a naif style which could be cloying and twee but has a directness and honesty that more produced styles lack. They are certainly not about to win a Grammy anytime soon.

Harp, ukulele, toy xylophone, occasional accordion and unaffected singing meld into a sound reminiscent of primary school music lessons, in a "lets see what we can find in the music cupboard" way. They sing about domestic concerns in conversational voices. They sound like they are singing about their friends, as Mark E Smith once said to me about Dexys Midnight Runners.

The title for his post and the place where I found out about Jaw Harp Potential and Bandcamp is the excellent site Music for Maniacs, one of probably only a handful of places on the Internet worth a visit.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Pimp My Album 2

If there is a criticism to be made of Taking Tiger Mountain it is that Eno's compositions tend to be one paced and veer towards the slightly sluggish. Hilsinger and Beatty bring the melody to the fore and demonstrate, by copying, Eno's talent for layering of sounds to form an interesting and varied soundscape. There is a site on the web devoted to explaining Eno's lyrics and this song is one of his more obscure efforts. Apparently, there is a raincoat, a whale without any eyes, seven soldiers on a train and a pie shop in the sky. I suspect he writes for phonetic effect rather than to convey any intended meaning. Nice album, though.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Pimp My Album

Continuing the soundtrack to my holidays, a man called Doug Hilsinger wanted to hear his friend, Caroleen Beatty, sing some of the songs from Brian Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) album. So he assembled some musicians and proceeded to record a new version of the whole album.

It's a bit of a Gus Van Zant cover, in that Hilsinger and co. do not seek to reinvent or reinterpret any of these songs. The mix of sounds is preserved across both recordings and this new version mirrors the previous one's sonic palette. What the new recording does is to give these songs a bit of vigour. Beatty and the other singers have stronger voices than Eno's charming but weak vocal style and the whole thing has been buffed up for the CD generation. The bass on this track has more depth and grit. The high pitched guitar? synth? bagpipes? part is more piercing (actually, on the original recording it's the Portsmouth Sinfonia, which explains the variable pitch). Beatty's singing also has more feeling than Eno's and the whole production takes the album out of Eno's supposed cerebral, glacial fridge and demonstrates him to be a much more emotional composer than in common credence.

Holiday Music 2

I fancy myself saved. Having 'fessed up our guilt, we are now free to obey and not stray from the path of righteousness lest we relapse into our old ways. The Fa Sol La Singers give some Sacred Harp Music, which I like a lot. The name comes from the Sacred Harp Hymn Book and it is distinguishable by all songs being prefaced by singing the names of the notes in the tune before the lyrics kick in, hence the Fa Sol La singers.

I like how the music sounds improvised, though it isn't, like the singers are making it up as they go along, though they aren't. This is another characteristic of this style of communal singing. There are elements of chanting and of counter point in there and then they do a show-offy stop and start thing with the tune. Sacred Harp singing is not afraid of flair. Hymns, Ancient and Modern gave us dirges conveying sanctimonious sentiments. A sort of Come into the Garden, Jesus. Sacred Harp singing exhorts participants to sound their instruments of joy.

Holiday Music

I fancy myself hung as a thief; my secrets exposed, my vanities picked over and laughed at, my insecurities tweeted and my guilt revealed for things I had not done. Yet I know, the fault is in me.

What to listen to while navigating Osaka's underground network? These are highlights from the tapes I took on my holidays. I listened to several pieces from the 8 CD collection Times Ain't Like They Used To Be (Early American Rural Music) on the Yazoo label. Aside from documenting the music described in its subtitle, this series also attempts to present the best possible sonic reproduction of the recordings. This means that you get less of an academic history lesson and more of a sense of the thrill many of these performers can generate. Using only non-electric instruments and their voices they whip up, in many instances, a considerable attack and almost visceral delivery as they generate real power. This must have sounded spectacular in small rooms and halls.

The Four Wanderers sing a song showing a happy marriage of tune and imagery, with the repetition of lines echoed by the circular tune as the singer obsesses over the fact that the fault is in him and he must seek reparation and forgiveness. For us Catholics, this is a delicious message. The feeling that we are a sham, a mis-pretence, that we steal our good name from others more worthy while we deserve neither attention nor approbation. That we thieve our reputation and deserve our final exposure and execution. "Seeker in the wilderness, the fault's in me".