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Nathan (photo by Jon Schledwitz)

“If David Lynch had directed ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?,’ Nathan’s music would be the soundtrack.” – Michael Wrycraft, CBC Radio

Two women and two men.

Acoustic and electric guitars,  6-string banjo, accordion, mandolin, pedal steel, dobro, drums and percussion, piano, organ, some horns (trumpet, French Horn, and tuba) – even the eerie howling sound of a theremin, a motion-sensitive synthesizer. Add some Appalachia to the pot and throw in a little jazz – a dash of  country, Tex-Mex, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley, and some cabaret for good measure.

That’s the Canadian band Nathan.  No wonder they’re hard to categorize.  One thing is not hard to figure, though – this is some seriously good music.

Nathan’s debut album Stranger was released independently to much acclaim in 2001, and won a Prairie Music Award for Outstanding Independent Album.

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offthesky - The Door in the Wall

I was an easy recruit. I stumbled across a new label called Wist Rec and one of its early projects, the Book Report Series. The series consists of releases of music inspired by literary works selected from among the Penguin Mini Modern Classics. Each release takes the form of a 3” CDR attached to a copy of the book upon which it was based. A translucent dustjacket mingles the names of musician and author. This combination of book and music is, according to the Wist Rec site, intended to “allow one to glean new, immediate connections between differing art forms,” and each release is limited to 100 copies. This was already intriguing. Add the twin facts that one of the works chosen was a short story by H.G. Wells that I remembered particularly admiring some years ago, and that the artist who would be covering this work was one already responsible for well over 200 tracks in my music library, and it was an easy decision to order The Door in the Wall by offthesky.

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24

Nov

2011

Contemporary English Folk Music Part 1

By Greg Lewis. Posted in Folk | 1 Comment »

An on-going musical interest of mine is contemporary English Folk Music. I first became interested over 40 years ago in the late 1960s when I was a student. The late 1960s was a period of renaissance for folk music in the UK. My college had a Folk Club with another club weekly in a local pub. It was whilst he was on his way to play for us that Paul Simon wrote Homeward Bound when he was sitting on the Widnes station platform.  There has been another renaissance in recent years led by a number of bands and solo artists playing in a more contemporary approach while bringing in music from other genres. This is the first of a monthly series of articles to introduce the key artists and albums of the current English folk music scene.

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23

Nov

2011

Is Tyler, The Creator Maturing?

By Craig McManus. Posted in Hip Hop, Rap | 2 Comments »

In a new SPIN interview, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All ringmaster Tyler, The Creator says, “[t]alking about rape and cutting bodies up, it just doesn’t interest me anymore.  What interests me is making weird hippie music for people to get high to…I can’t rap about the same shit.”  If true, this statement will surely be unwelcome news to the indie blogosphere that has garnered thousands of clicks over the last couple of years as it endlessly debates whether the homophobia and violence against women contained in many OFWGKTA tracks is a sign of the downfall of society or just kids being kids.  It would also be yet another instance of the cycle of youthful envelope-pushing followed by steady maturation that we see every few years in popular music.

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About 450 releases and rereleases were reviewed in the September/October 2011 issue of American Record Guide. These are the ones that generated most enthusiasm:

Johann Christian Bach: Symphonies opp.6, 9, 18. Netherlands Chamber Orchestra/David Zinman. Newton 8002065

“These recordings, made from 1974 to 1977 and originally released on Philips, made me ask, “Johann Christian Bach, where have you been all my life?” Here’s wonderful, incredibly inventive music in performances that are simply the best” – Gil French

Blow: Venus and Adonis. Amanda Forsyth, Tyler Duncan, Boston Early Music Festival/Paul O’Dette, Stephen Stubbs. CPO 777614

“This is a beautiful release in every aspect… a topnotch production, and I would not hesitate to recommend it for a first choice or only one for people who are less than die-hard collectors” – Ardella Crawford

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19

Nov

2011

thedeathofspacesandcapitalletters?

By Jake Scissorman. Posted in Indie, Shoegaze, Trends | 3 Comments »
Melissa Arpin and Scott Cortez of lovesliescrushing
Melissa Arpin and Scott Cortez of lovesliescrushing

For those of you with English degrees – and we all know there are more of you than you’d care to admit – the World Wide Web has proven to be a stubborn and resourceful enemy of grammatical correctness. It isn’t just that forum posters, news-site commenters, and bloggers (like me!) insist on ignoring virtually every rule of grammar, punctuation, and spelling consistency in the book; most of them refuse to admit the book even exists. “Let’s just crowdsource the rules of grammar,” they often say, as if this weren’t completely contrary to the whole purpose of language, or as if “crowdsource” were even a real word. And the web’s ubiquitous domain-naming system (DNS) merely adds fuel to the fire, with its uncaring approach to capitalization, and above all, its complete non-support of the space character.

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18

Nov

2011

The Smile Sessions – The Beach Boys

By Greg Lewis. Posted in Pop, Reviews | No Comments »

 

I’ve been waiting for this album for 45 years, virtually three quarters of my life, but it is still not the finished article! Back in the mid 1960s, The Beatles reigned supreme in the world of popular music. But if any group (as we then called them) came close to taking that crown, it was the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys’ previous album to the Smile sessions was Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson’s answer to Rubber Soul and Revolver. The Beatles had raised the bar with their albums; until then, LPs were usually collections of singles, b-sides and fillers. But a few months after the release of Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper raised the bar even higher for Wilson. He wanted something even grander, and Smile was to be his answer. As he describes it in the notes published for this new release, “Each Beatles album had sounded different. The way I saw it we were in a race, a production race.”

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If the phrase “avant-pop” wasn’t already claimed, it would need to be created to describe Micachu and the Shapes.  On their 2009 debut, and thus far only studio full length, Mica Levi and her bandmates Marc Pell and Raisa Khan (who both joined Levi in the middle of recording Jewellery, hence the crediting of only some tracks to Micachu and the Shapes) create a sound that can only be described as a cacophony of sounds and genres.  The noise made by the band can be harsh and dissonant, but somehow the songs still manage to have pop hooks and to be quite catchy.

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“People were more interested back then than today in this serious electronic music” comments former Kraftwerk member Klaus Röder in an interview for the recent documentary film Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution. “Yes, people today are interested in techno and so on, but I’ve had the feeling…that no one knows that it exists, the serious or so-called serious electronic music.” He may have a point – I’m guessing that most of the crowds at Germany’s famous “Love Parade” were not thinking “Ah, Stockhausen!” when they geared up to party. But the opposition of “techno” and “serious” is a little too easy. Alva Noto (the main recording alias of German electronic artist Carsten Nicolai) is one of the more significant reasons why.

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Minneapolis is Funkytown.

No, really.

When Minneapolis natives Lipps Inc. released Mouth to Mouth at the end of 1979, disco was on its last legs. In the years prior, punk had exploded and seeded new musical movements that would become everything from new wave and post punk to hardcore and hip hop, but 1979 saw more direct attacks on the genre.  Everywhere you turned, from rock radio’s “death to disco” frenzy to TV’s anti disco characters on WKRP in Cincinnati, disco was quickly losing steam.  Even professional sports got involved in July with the Chicago White Sox “Disco Demolition Night”, which took its name quite literally when it detonated a crate full of disco records sparking an on field riot.  In the week following “Disco Demolition Night” each of the disco albums that had been in the top ten of the U.S. charts fell from that lofty position, and it seemed that disco was indeed dead. A few months later, though, Mouth to Mouth would provide disco with one more day in the sun through its hit single “Funkytown”.

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