McIntire Top 10: 2012
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
I don't pay a whole lot of attention to best-of lists, but this year I got lured into making one, and I thought I'd share it here. This is not a "this is absolutely the BEST stuff of 2012" as much as a "this is what gripped my attention this year..." sort of list. I don't keep up with new recordings like I used to, and it's gotten a whole lot harder to do so anyway. The world is filled with astonishing music and I am probably NOT the best person to consult for current information on what's going on. As I've gotten older, I've retreated into a few passionate interests. The recordings on this list are in no particular order. Clicking on a title link takes you to an approved means of purchase.
McIntire Top 10: 2012
Wandelweiser 'Und so weiter' (Another Timbre)
Here's a six-disc set that I just bought, and it'll take me the main portion of 2013 to get a real grip on it, but this is a major musical movement that you'll be hearing more about in the future. They've been around since the early '90s and have amassed quite a discography. You might as well get in on it now. My friend Andy Lee described this as a great Wandelweiser "starter set," and I think that description hits it perfectly. If you're wanting to explore the terrain that lies between "music" and the hum of your refrigerator or a slow, quiet scraping sound, this is the place to start. Don't be in a hurry.
Daphne Oram: The Oram Tapes Volume 1 (Young Americans)
Daphne Oram was one of the great early pioneers of electroacoustic music, and she's been sadly neglected over the years. I'd read about her in accounts of electronic music history, but I'd never heard any of her music until recently. Specifically, last June, when I walked into Weirdo Records on Mass. Ave in Cambridge, MA. This was the first thing that my eye focused on upon entering the store. My ears have been focused on it ever since...
Mikel Rouse: Boost/False Doors (Exit Music)
Mikel has been making compelling and ultra-smart music for a long time. Not one to get locked into a particular sound, this release finds him pairing heavy dance beats and his recent interest in slide guitar. No artist since Prince has been this good at self-production, or as prolific. If there were justice in this universe, Mikel would have won several Grammy awards by now. He'd also be on our $100 dollar bill. Check out "Hurdle Rate," or "God Said No."
Jürg Frey: Piano Music (Irritable Hedgehog)
Right, so I produced this album myself, and it features my good friend Andy Lee. Big deal. It's still gorgeous and amazing and baffling and utterly unlike anything you've heard before. Be the first person in your zip code to own one.
Captain Beefheart: Bat Chain Puller (Zappa Records)
I bought my first Captain Beefheart album in 1976. It didn't make any sense to me. I didn't think I liked it. But: I kept playing it, for myself and my friends. Eventually, the genius that I apparently sensed was there through some intuitive means, became more and more apparent. This album was recorded in '75, but through a series of unfortunate events it was locked up until this year. One of the Captain's best ever, and Zappa's production crew have mastered it beautifully.
Peter Hammill: Consequences (Fie!)
I've been listening to the music of Peter Hammill ever since I bought a Van der Graaf Generator album for 98 cents at a W.T. Grant department store in 1976. This release is somewhere around his 50th. Each Hammill album takes a particular tack and on this one it's heavily vocal, with most of the songs examining the vagaries of language, its limitations and frustrations. Fans who are hoping for a collection of rockers will be disappointed, but the songwriting is subtle and profound.
Leah Kardos: Feather Hammer (Bigo & Twigetti, via Bandcamp)
My good friend Andy Lee steered me towards this recording, and it's just fantastic. It's also a fantastic deal right now.
Can: The Lost Tapes (Spoon)
The last couple of years have seen me really digging back into a lot of the experimental rock that intrigued me years ago. The Köln group Can has been a big part of that digging. Three discs of unreleased studio material and none of it is spurious. If you're a fan of the group, you really can't miss. I blogged about it a while back, and you can read about it here, if you want to know more. Another treasure I grabbed at Weirdo Records.
Conrad Schnitzler: Rot (Bureau B)
Schnitzler was a fascinating artist who delved into all manner of media. He also helped found Tangerine Dream and Kluster. His solo albums are even more astringent than those he made with collaborators, and they're being reissued. Rot (German for "red") shows him carefully exploring the potential of the EMS VCS-3 synthesizer, also known as the "Putney." For that reason alone, he's like a brother to me.
Pere Ubu: A Ghost Town Goes Where You Want to Go (Hearpen)
Pere Ubu has been around since the mid-1970s and this live release of a show from 2006 is amazing and shows why they've remained a relevant force. Simply for the wonder of the astonishing synchrony of bass/drum team of Michele Temple and Steve Mehlman would make this a savvy purchase. Keith Moliné's guitar and Robert Wheeler's synth offer a chaotic counterbalance to the driving rhythm. David Thomas's vocals remain one of rock's perplexing oddities. I've heard him do "Final Solution" a bunch of times. This recording makes me sit up and hear it anew.
McIntire Top 10: 2012
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Friday, October 05, 2012
Thursday, September 20, 2012
A while back a discussion emerged on Twitter about composers who wrote drone pieces. My name was mentioned as a likely source of information, which was probably a mistake. But I am interested in drone-based works, and herewith share a few recordings that I have found worthwhile. It is by no means complete in any sense. And many (if not most) artists on this list, like Niblock, Palestine and Radigue, have far more recordings available than I have mentioned here. But it might get you started.
See a glaring omission? Please add your own suggestions in the comments.
Rhys Chatham: A Crimson Grail (Table of the Elements, Nonesuch)
Guitar Trio Is My Life (Radium, Table of the Elements)
Slapping Pythagoras (Table of the Elements)
Henry Flynt: C Tune (Locust Music)
Fripp & Eno: No Pussyfooting (DGM)
Evening Star (DGM)
Jon Hassell: Vernal Equinox (Lovely Music)
Four Full Flutes (XI)
Strumming Music (Sub Rosa)
Schlingen-Blangen (New World)
Triptych (Important Records)
Trilogie de la Mort (XI) Vice-versa (Important Records)
La Monte Young: Second Dream of the High-Tension Step-Down
Friday, September 14, 2012
Saturday, September 08, 2012
Monday, September 03, 2012
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Friday, July 13, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Saturday, March 10, 2012
One of my most precious inspirations, since my late teens, was/is the LA comedy quartet, the Firesign Theatre. Though their most significant work was done in the late 60s and early 70s, they remained a potent, if intermittent comedic force to the present day. They had no peers apart from Monty Python and probably had as much influence on me as an electronic artist as any composers. A week doesn't go by that I don't listen to them. Their best recordings are suffused with a kind of exuberant wordplay, whimsy and multi-layered complexity that was entirely new in comedy. Peter Bergman was the organizing force that brought them into being.
Without filling too much space, it's fair to say that Bergman had an eventfulness of life and career that exceeded that of almost anyone. He was present at or an instigator of many watershed moments of recent cultural history. He asked questions, connected dots, and celebrated life. His most recent activity was to revive his long-standing Radio Free Oz program as a daily podcast. In its current form it was a melange of political ad parodies, insightful commentary and effervescent humor. I subscribed, enthusiastically. Heading into his early seventies, the notion of slowing down seemed unknown to him. Aware of the past, he look forward. I thought he provided a good example for how to live out one's later years. The LA Times obit provides a good precis of his life and work. And this quote concluded his last podcast before he passed away:
“Take heart, dear friends. We are passing through the darkening of the light. We’re gonna make it and we’re going to make it together. Don’t get ground down by cynicism.
Don’t let depression darken the glass through which you look. This is a garden we live in. A garden seeded with unconditional love. And the tears of the oppressed, and the tears of the frustrated, and the tears of the good will spring those seeds. The flag has been waived. It says occupy. Occupy Wall Street. Occupy the banks. Occupy the nursing homes. Occupy Congress.
Occupy the big law offices. Occupy the lobbyists. Occupy…yourself. Because that’s where it all comes together. I pledge to you, from this moment on, whatever it means, I’m going to occupy myself. I love you. See ya tomorrow.”
Thursday, March 01, 2012
The musical career of Don Van Vliet, known to the world as Captain Beefheart, is filled with some astonishing highs, counterbalanced by some dismaying lows, both artistically and financially. By all accounts a difficult man, he treated his fellow musicians poorly, even as he heaped ever more musical demands upon them, while not fully acknowledging their contributions. By the mid-1970s, he'd already burned through a couple of fine backing groups, and via a series of exceedingly naive and short-sighted deals, found himself starting anew. Frank Zappa lent a hand by signing his old high school buddy onto his 1975 tour as a vocalist, documented on the Zappa/Beefheart 'Bongo Fury' album. Despite this, Don managed to bite yet one more feeding hand and alienated Zappa to the point that they were not speaking to one another by the end of the tour.
Returning to the studio in the spring of '76 with his loyal and long-suffering drummer, John "Drumbo" French, Zappa sideman Denny Walley, and a couple of new recruits, Beefheart recorded what should have been his unassailable return to form, a return which potentially would have resulted in critical acclaim, plus solid sales and touring revenues. But the album got caught in a legal showdown between Zappa and his manager, Herb Cohen, who was also the manager of Beefheart, Tom Waits and a few others. Cohen had been playing fast and loose with Frank's money, and the 'Bat Chain Puller' album master got stuck in a vortex of litigation. Eventually Beefheart recorded new versions of the songs, which were released over the remainder of his recording career on the 'Shiny Beast,' 'Doc At the Radar Station,' and 'Ice Cream for Crow' albums. While these tracks have been available for some time to hard-core fans on the 'Dust-Sucker' bootleg, the sound here is clearer and far more immediate. In fact, this album may boast the best-recorded vocals of Don's entire career. (A real accomplishment, as Beefheart was notorious for not staying "on-mic" while recording.)
I would maintain that the recording is one of the best of the entire Beefheart oeuvre. The clarity is immaculate, yet avoiding the desiccated quality of 'Clear Spot.' (While the production on that album is very transparent, I've always found it to be somewhat airless.) BCP has edge, brilliance, and a natural quality that sets the standard for the later albums. John French served as musical director for the recording, coaching the musicians and running rehearsals. No musician better understood Beefheart's intent, and the success of this collection is due in no small part to his efforts. French's direction gave birth to some of the tightest, yet utterly fluid performances of Beefheart ever. Hearing these versions, I'm struck by how consistent the arrangements are on the later albums. It seems possible, if not likely, that these performances were the models from which the later band members learned these songs. Don's vocals are a bit looser and more expressive than on the later versions, noticeably so on tracks like "Floppy Boot Stomp" "Owed T'Alex" and the bizarre standard, "Harry Irene." One previously unheard treasure is "Hoboism," an impromptu improvisatory collaboration between Beefheart and Walley, captured on cassette and astutely preserved by the session engineer, Kerry McNabb.
'Bat Chain Puller' is beautifully packaged, with illuminating notes by John French and Denny Walley, plus a moving postscript by Gail Zappa. Fabled British DJ John Peel asserted that Beefheart was perhaps rock's "one true genius." With this release, the evidence supporting that statement mounts ever higher.
Interested? Order here: