Saturday, December 29, 2007

Some thoughts on albums from 2007

Thought I might join in with a few albums that I liked, that were generally overlooked.

Elvis Perkins – Ash Wednesday
What can I say about this album? I remember first listening to the opening track "While You Were Sleeping" and just being completely entrapped in the music. I now wake up everyday to "While You Were Sleeping" and it always provides a great start to the day. The album has a great flow of ups and downs throughout, and is perfect for any mood. I would definitely recommend this album to anyone who likes fuzz-folk, although this is more on the folk side then the fuzz. One sad fact about this album is that it was written after both of Perkins' parents died. His father died of AIDS when Perkins was young, and his mother died in one of the September 11th planes. This definitely shows up on the album, but it's more of a sad overtone then a sad direction that the album takes on. This is album definitely is one of my favorites of the year, and it's a debut album to boot.

The Rakes – Ten New Messages
I can't remember where I heard this, but I remember hearing someone call The Rakes "the real Arctic Monkeys." Well this is their second album, and it's a good one. As the title suggests, it's ten new tracks in that post-punk/art-rock British style that The Rakes are good at. With a nice consistent sound throughout the whole album, it flows really well all the way from "The World Was a Mess But His Hair Was Perfect" to "Leave The City And Come Home." Really a decent album. And when you have a track called "When Tom Cruise Cries" how can you go wrong?

Tullycraft – Every Scene Needs A Center

What more could you want from an album? With themes like punks, and goths and Dracula, UFOs all crushed up, put into a big old blender and then doused in pure essence of happiness, I don't know what could go wrong. It's not often that you find such an enjoyable 7+ min. pop song, but Tullycraft did it with Dracula Screams of Tiger Style (Parts One and Two). This is one of the only albums this year that I've listened to twice in a row. One of the happiest bands I know of, yes even happier then I'm From Barcelona, Tullycraft is also one of the funniest. The review at KWUR says something along the lines of "Great music, and witty lyrics that Pitchfork writers wish they could have written." Reason enough to go and listen to Every Scene Needs A Center right away.

White Flight – White Flight

Most people haven't heard of White Flight. What they're missing is the solo project of Justin Roelofs, who you may know as a member of the now defunct ban The Anniversary. And let me tell you, it's a terrific album. The album is a complete, beautiful work of art. The best way I can describe it is as a collage of poppy sounds and hooks. Sometimes it's electronic, sometimes acoustic, but it all flows so well together. And over all of this you have some great lyrics and vocals. It really creates this complete experience that just sucks you in for the length of the album. I've heard a rumor that the album was inspired by Roelofs trip to South America where he experimented with a lot of local psychedelics. This would definitely explain quite a bit, as the album is really a strange album. And not everyone will like it because it's so strange. But if you give it a listen, you might come it enjoy it as much as I have.

Subversive Cinema: Steal This Film II

Just released (on the interweb), Steal This Film II.

The second part of this ongoing series, the film explores intellectual property and the struggles against p2p technology.

You are encouraged to download it (in several formats) here
or visit the film's website at




My top 12 of 2007

Just in time for the new year, my top 12 albums of 2007 (at KWUR, we give you more than the standard 10!):

1: Japanther - Skuffed Up My Huffy

Being a local band from New York isn't exactly an excuse for not being a national sensation. But Skuffed Up My Huffy proves that the duo Japanther is worthy of the attention being paid to New York bands like Yeasayer and Vampire Weekend. The album is essentially a punk album, but it has plenty of samples and tape loops that would be more fitting for a hip hop group. Skuffed Up My Huffy is only 26 minutes long, but the songs are fast, lo-fi and irresistibly catchy, and with all the samples, doesn't really sound like anything else out there. Skuffed Up My Huffy got stuck in my head after the first listen, and it hasn't gotten out since.

2: The National - Boxer

There really isn't much about Boxer that hasn't already been said. I just remember at the beginning of the year, when I found out that Boxer and Voxtrot's self-titled debut were coming out on the same day, it seemed like May 22 would be a huge day for indie music. At the time, Voxtrot were already huge, just based on the EPs, and seemed to have eclipsed the popularity of the National, who had been slowly gaining steam based on the strength of their previous albums. I haven't really heard that much from Voxtrot recently, while it seems like the National is all over the place.

3: Menomena - Friend and Foe

When I first heard Friend and Foe, I didn't really like it. But slowly and surely, it grew on me. Then I saw them over the summer, and they were great. And here they are. They have the experimental aspect, apparently requisite for any indie street cred, but they fuse it together with radio friendly hooks, pretty good lyrics, and a hell of a lot of energy, and the result is just a damn good album. The first six songs from the album have appeared on various iterations of year-end mix (look out for the final version of it on facebook, if I ever get around to it), and I can't say that about anything else that was released this year.

This is the point where I've decided I'd rather listen to the albums than write about them, so enjoy this list.

4: Bishop Allen - The Broken String
5: Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends
6: 1990s - Cookies
7: Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare (where's the love for this album, seriously?)
8: Grinderman - Grinderman
9: Mannequin Men - Fresh Rot
10: Art Brut - It's A Bit Complicated
11: Kings of Leon - Because of the Times (I've been listening to them more and more in the past couple days since hearing a full concert of theirs on XM, which may have either clouded my judgment or just reminded me that this album needs to be on here, and maybe higher)
12: Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbals

5 other cool pop culture things from 2007:
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
30 Rock
Flight of the Conchords
Mad Men

So Many Dynamos vs. Beatle Bob: battle of the millenium

Ryan Wasoba of So Many Dynamos has a new post up on the o-fficial So Many Dynamos blog detailing his gripe with the infamous Beatle Bob. A quick synopsis (read the whole thing though): "[H]e always gets into shows free, always shows up late, and always pushes his way past everybody to get to the front right by the stage", "At our show at Off Broadway last week, there was a coat on the stage right in front of where i was setting up my pedals. Beetle Bob picked it up from the stage, despite walking in without a coat. He left a few songs into our set and walked out, big puffy jacket in hand", and "He also has claimed to work at KDHX (he doesn't) and has talked bands into letting him have a promo copy of their CD for radio airplay." Hopefully, that was just Pete Best Bob, but if that's all true...damn, dude. If you're reading this, Beatle Bob, we'd love to hear your side of the story.

Meanwhile, So Many Dynamos will be at the Billiken Club on January 25, and Beatle Bob will be at a show near you. Check 'em both out.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

KWUR technology report end of '07

Happy holidays from the kwur tech and Unicron! Say hello Mr. Robot Man!

Yikes! It just vomited crash output on us! What a hueg metal monster to fear indeed!

We would also like to emphasize Unicron's fashionable custom rack mount that look so sexy, thanks to Pat Harkins in the mech shop:

2007 has been a big year for the technology of the station. Since Unicron's rise the technology use in KWUR has continued to improve, as long as things weren't breaking...

Uhh, where's the air studio mainframe? (NOTE: we insist it should be called a "console," but the clowns who make the thing call it a "mainframe")

Okay, truth time: the air studio CONSOLE is currently with its manufacturer, since a Zylink chip on it fried right before winter break, which made the first six channels on the console *freak* out. We suspect this chip was the reason the console was shocking people - okay just kidding, but not really ;). However, in spite of this, we quickly hacked together a temporary air studio in the listening room! The procedure got a little silly at points, but here's basically what went down:

We realized we needed to plug in our sound card's analog source adapter, since our replacement mixer did not have a digital in/out. However, the mixer can plug into our plethora of analog channels. But before that, we had the wonderful experience of learning that a recessed server chassis can block anything with a width greater than a serial plug from attaching to the PCI card closest to the wall of the box. Thus, we powered down the server, and swapped the monitor and sound cards. Ironically, even the VGA plug was too wide and so we did some hacking (literally) to make the VGA plug fit properly (below). But, even with the "adjustments", the plug still didn't fit right, and would disconnect the monitor if not fastened (d'oh!). However, we found a screw to hold in the VGA plug, but this partial connection makes the monitor produce images that "...I can only describe as the most extraordinary display of blue objects." Kidding! It works fine ;).

Actual monitor output is really imporant for us to have since we're running the 2.6.24rc6 linux kernel and the RAID driver keeps crashing on us (see earlier crash output picture). Normally we wouldn't care, but when the server locks up, we have to take those ever important screen shots (in this case, literally!) of the crash output to send to our esteemed Stex driver developer, Mr. Jens. For those of you also having issues with the Stex driver - if you're using a two CPU machine, switching to one CPU may help to alleviate crashes, but since we were just advised to do this the other day, the improvement in stability has yet to be declared.

However, after rigging the analog out of the robot to a channel in on our temporary mixer and rigging the monitor out on the mixer back to the robot (for archival and web broadcasting), our listening room effectively became an air studio! Here are a couple pictures of Newsworthy Ghost Island doing what they do best in the hacked air studio:

The whole gang:

And here's Alex with a vinyl copy of the Cool Runnings soundtrack, which apparently features Hans Zimmer.

We expect to get the air studio "mainframe" back at the end of break, and then KWUR will be back at 100% functionality, along with a newly trained Audio Service Director, right Tara?


The megatron project just had its first package release! Since KWUR is all about community, and Carl Sagan emphasizes the global community as ever important to our future, we are developing this project to enable quick radio station assembly as long as you have a computer and an internet connection. As advocates of free speech and global causes, we feel the megatron project assists in giving a voice to those around the world who have little means, but the most to say. So please, download, install and test our software! You may not need all the functionality it offers, but it is essentially a radio station in tarball :). If you're planning on building a system from scratch to test, we recommend Vector Linux as the OS of choice, since it's stability and minimalistic nature can't be beat!

One amazing aspect to Megatron is that you can have megatrons connect to each other over the internet to forward a broadcast and increase the scope of a currently running broadcast. Now that's free speech! All powered by free software!


Getting things done. Lots of work is going into the megatrond project these days, and we're excited to continually improve it. While the latter process mostly invovles code, as you saw earlier in this post, we sometimes have to do some handiwork to get things assembled the way we want. We did some welding tonight, but it was raining and we don't have access to mechanical engineering facilities during break. Thus we improvised a little...

Here is our intrepid metalsmith, Kevin, who will be missed as he transitions from kicking ass on the internet, to kicking ass in Physics.

and here he is welding under a tarp we hung off a fence and a light...

Be careful! Or someone might call the cops on you!

The goals for the upcoming semester are on the feature request tracker of the megatrond project, but we will also be organizing a lot of the technology equipment around the station, from the tool cabinet to the schmeg room. We will also be using our mind bullets to fight Murphy's law and "the curse of things breaking when we least want them to." This spring, we'll be kicking ass and chewing bubble gum, but we're all outta gum.

Well, this concludes the tech report for the end of 2007. See you next year!

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Subversive Cinema: Tops of 2007

Here are my personal favorites from 2007. I'm only including films I saw screened on film (and of course I couldn't see everything).

So here we go (in no particular order):

No Country For Old Men, Cohen Brothers - I mean, you just can't go wrong with the Cohen brothers...

I'm Not There, Todd Haynes / Control, Anton Corbijn - "I'm Not There" was a radical departure from the banality of the biopic genre. After seeing it, I can't imagine a Bob Dylan biopic done any other way. "Control" was a great looking (in B&W with tints) film about Ian Curtis of Joy Division. Anton Corbijn has made some great music videos (including my favorite, Nirvana's Heart Shaped Box), so I was glad to see him move into the world of the cinema.

Superbad, Greg Mottola / Knocked-Up, Judd Apatow - Finally Judd Apatow is getting the respect he deserves. He teamed up with Seth Rogen for both of these and we got the best comedies of the year. Looking forward to more Apatow efforts...

Flanders, Bruno Dumont - Technically this film came out in 2006 (it won the Grand Prix at Cannes) but it didn't reach me in the theater until this year. This film deals with the horrors of modern middle eastern warfare better than any film I've seen [besides Battle of Algiers (1966)].

Into Great Silence, Phillip Groning - This film also came out some time ago but didn't get a small theatrical release until this year. It is an experience. Sitting in a cold, quiet, darkened theatre for 162 minutes puts you near the carthusian monks the film documents.

Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett - Well this film is actually from 1978, but we finally saw it released theatrically this year. A classic.

Manufactured Landscapes, Jennifer Baichwal - This film showcases the power of Edward Burtynsky's photography. Stunningly beautiful portraits of disturbingly huge Asian industrial structures. The 10 minute tracking shot of an factory floor is perhaps one of my favorite movie openings.

New Maps of the New World:
The Short Films of Roger Beebe, Roger Beebe - This was my favorite experimental showcase of the year. His Fall tour gave me some hope for the touring experimental filmmaker.

The Bothersome Man, Jens Lien - This film is basically "Groundhog's Day" for the 2000s. A great subversive look at modern corporate culture.

In The Shadow of the Moon, David Sington - This was a documentary about NASA missions to the moon with interviews with the astronauts who went there. Being a simple look at this remarkable feat, I'm surprised no one had attempted to document this before.

Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez - It seems everyone was "too cool" to put this on their lists. I preferred Rodriguez's to Tarantino's. I enjoyed the idea of bringing the double feature grindhouse experience to the theaters again. I'm also sad that it will never be released that way again (the DVDs are the seperate full length cuts of the movies). And while it wasn't the strongest film of the year, I had more intense film debates about this movie than any other this year. Everyone seems to have their own opinion...

Transformers, Michael Bay - Actually the worst film I saw this year. Buried not so deeply within, it wraps all the current excesses of America into one two and a half hour Michael Bay epic.

On to 2008....



Happy Holidays (Representin')

From the Suher family to your family. Listen to KWUR.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Overlooked albums: The Narrator

"SurfJew" is one of the best songs of the year. Better than anything off Strawberry Jam, and Neon Bible, and Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?. It is the lead single off of The Narrator's sophomore album, All That to the Wall. This album was overlooked for two main reasons. First, it was released around the same time as the new albums from Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, Voxtrot, and the National. And second, it sounds a lot like a raw version of Pavement. It's safe to say that All That to the Wall isn't as good as an album like Slanted and Enchanted, but the album is still criminally underappreciated. The rawness is enchanting, especially when some albums are so overproduced (I'm looking at you, Voxtrot). But the album is produced just enough to bring out how insanely catchy the songs are, and there's a real honest quality to it also. Come on, how can you not like a song about a black hole bar mitzvah?


The Billiken Club > The Gargoyle

For anyone who hasn't read the comments to my Shooting Spires post, Shooting Spires will be playing at the Billiken Club on February 18 with Health. Also at the Billiken Club: So Many Dynamos on January 25. I won't be able to go to that, so everyone who will be in St. Louis then should go and represent KWUR because that will be an awesome show, no doubt about it. The Billiken Club: like the Gargoyle, but good!

And Stereogum has released their 2008 preview. The albums I'm most looking forward to on that list are Los Campesinos!, Wolf Parade, and most of all, Pattern Is Movement. Apparently, Stereogum has heard the new Pattern Is Movement, entitled All Together, and thinks its "so good." I've been told that it's amazing by the one person I know who has heard it, and the single that Home Tapes put out, Right Away b/w Korea, is pretty damn good. When Pattern Is Movement takes over the world, I just hope they're merciful rulers.

One album that isn't on Stereogum's radar is the new one from Time Again called Darker Days. Time Again is one of the best new punk bands out there, and Darker Days might help reclaim punk from the likes of Fall Out Boy. Anyone who likes punk should definitely check it out. I think it comes out in January, but thanks to this little series of tubes, it's already available for your listening pleasure.

Watch out for another overlooked album post, coming tonight or tomorrow (or as soon as I get around to it).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Overlooked albums: Shooting Spires

I'm going to start a little mini-series with albums that didn't receive nearly enough attention this past year. The first selection is Shooting Spires' self-titled debut. Shooting Spires is BJ Warshaw of the ready-to-explode Brooklyn band Parts & Labor. There were lots of cryptic, noisy, and just plain weird bands that made big names for themselves this year like Health and Clipd Beaks, and most notably, Animal Collective. Shooting Spires shares a lot of the same terrain as those bands, but trades some of the weirdness in for anthemic melodies. The noise is all still there, mainly in the electronic elements, but for those of us who are still suckers for pop songs, it's catchy enough to warrant repeat listenings. Shooting Spires is an engrossing debut, and one of the better albums of 2007.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Song I Like: "Chnam oun Dop-Pramp Muy (I'm Sixteen)" by Ros Sereysothea

So I got another song stuck in my head, and I figure it might be an interesting case to present to y'all. This one is a garage stomper from sixties Cambodia. I was first exposed to Cambodian garage rock this year when I saw the LA group Dengue Fever open up for Man Man at a McCarren Park Pool Party out in Brooklyn. My reactions were as followed: 1) that lead singer is quite foxy 2) that is a very impressive beard on the bassist (I think it is the bassist with the insane beard) 3) this is some of the most far-out shit I've heard in a while, and I've heard what I would consider to be a fair amount of far-out shit 4) it's also quite good and danceable. Cambodian garage rock is sort of like combining salsa and eggs, not necessarily intuitive, but it makes a whole bunch of sense when you taste it. Khmer has a very odd sound palate to my ears, full of spat out, short words with a whole bunch of vowels, and the vocal delivery tends to have a reverberating, lingering quality reminiscent of say, Bollywood. And then you back it with drums, fuzzy organs and guitars that reverb so heavily they sound half broken. It doesn't sound like it should make sense, but all of a sudden, you'll be dancing, and you won't have time to think about it.

I liked Dengue Fever a good deal, but then I forgot about them and Cambodian rock for a while until I read this post on the famed and feared WFMU blog. Remembering Dengue Fever, I downloaded a few of those MP3s and woah, totally blown away. First of all, the musicianship and just plain fierceness of these tracks is beyond belief. The guitar solos in "I'm Sixteen" might give Hendrix a run for his money. Or maybe not, but hyperbole aside, it's the kind of brutish, passionate axe-work that brings an instant guitar face to any male who has ever been an adolescent. The drums are steady but dependable, and they just don't quit. And then there's that sneaky, deliriously fuzzy organ, working its way in the back, so you almost don't hear it gloriously rocking its way through the song. And then of course, the vocals. Ros Sereysothea was once officially honored by the King of Cambodia as the "Golden Voice of Cambodia". Her voice is clear and melodic, songbird-like. You could tune to that voice. She blasts her way through the song, but keeps it expressive. You can hear the tease in her voice, and you know what the song is about without needing to understand any of the lyrics. This is what rock music is supposed to be, thuggish, crude and sexual. Except it's from Cambodia.

So the balls-out rock music will lure you in, and make you play it again and again as you cram for finals, and as you drink after finals. But what has me listening to it on repeat is the haunted quality of the song. Like the Ethiopiques collection, this song is a glimpse of an alternate universe. The vibrant Cambodian scene came to an abrupt end when the Khmer Rouge came to power in '75. The "Golden Voice" of Cambodia was sent to the Killing Fields. The more I listen to the track, the more I hear a ghost, Ros' voice haunting ithe music. In the same way, sometimes when I listen to the Ethiopiques collection, I can hear the footsteps of the Derg not far behind. We, the residents of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, have the eerie experience of being able to listen to recordings of people who have not only died, but whose whole worlds have died. I think there are some tracks, even fun ones like "I'm Sixteen", where the musty old past crawls inside and entwines itself with the music itself. Listening to songs like these, we have the terrible burden of dramatic irony. We know how the story ends, and where these people will go. These recordings are tragedy itself, an inexorable path that the listener cannot change. Listening to haunted songs like these, I have become increasingly convinced that history is what LP dust is made out of.

Here's a link to a documentary about the Cambodian scene of the sixties, with some sound samples (including "I'm Sixteen")

Monday, December 17, 2007

RFT Writes to Jeff Tweedy

If you haven't already, check out what the RFT did. It's a letter to Jeff Tweedy about how he's been forgetting his roots here in St. Louis. Even if you don't like Wilco, you have to admit that the RFT is doing a good job of trying to make St. Louis a better place.

shame on you, spade cooley/tales from the sleazy underbelly of the golden age of western swing/country music in los angeles

Spade Cooley would have been 97 today, had he not died some years ago of a heart attack, backstage during intermission of his famous (final) governor reagan approved, pre-prison parole concert.
A little, half-indian, classically-trained violinist from Oklahoma, Cooley was probably one of the most bizarre and megalomaniacal C&W stars ever, this during the era when the W in countrynwestern still meant something--he the self-proclaimed King of Western Swing (though the general consensus of history would later crown Bob Wills with that title).
Spade first entered the western bizniss as a Roy Rogers stand-in but gained fame (and notoriety) for his swing band - a hit of the then-hip Santa Monica Pier clubs. Far slicker than the hard, jazzy, honky tonk-influenced western swing of the esteemed Mr. Wills, Cooley's true talents (along with his own top-notch fiddlin') lay in his orchestration and arrangements, with a penchant for fairly eclectic takes on standards (or soon-to-be standards).
This somewhat bizarre clip (I wonder what it's from, besides the obvious answer of TCM) I think somewhat illustrates that, showcasing a famous incarnation of his band(members rotated fairly often, given how quick Spade was to fire on a whim), with Tex Williams singing around the campfire and some really, really, really intense yodeling from a gal whose name I can't recall (check the comments). The last number demonstrates his eclecticism expertly with an expanded band, replete with a cowboy harpist (not blues harp, hon, he got an orchestral harpist), two string basses, a jazz drummer with a fuller kit than Wills' Texas Playboy for sure and like a buttload of other stuff too.
Although it's hip to equate classic country with a bare-bones approach these days, this is clearly not always the case, and Spade's band exemplifies that fact. Too Hollywood for some, but I dig it.
Anyway, as Cooley's arrangements got increasingly baroque and his alcoholism worsened, the Western Swing trend just happened to die down and Spade was not gonna go quietly. Bizarre comeback attempts like a new all-female group and a Western theme park (this just after Disneyland was a big success) drained his money and it became difficult for him to maintain his rockstar lifestyle (he kept a mansion to himself and his groupies and housed his wife and daughter in a secluded rural ranch, forbidding them to leave the property).
Becoming increasingly and more bizarrely jealous of his wife and convinced that she was involved in a sex cult along with his two business partners in the failed theme park bid--he spot their limp-wrists miles away, he claimed--Spade became violent, especially when he caught word that his wife had confessed to a galpal a decades-old, brief affair with old chum Roy Rogers (though Rogers was apparently confused to hear this and many suspect she invented it out of guilt, weary of Spade's accusations).
So he beats the shit out of her and stomps her to death with his cowboy boots in front of their fourteen year old daughter.
His questionable and confusing behavior (he was clearly out of his mind) during the trial, I think, insured against a death sentence, and he almost got out of his life sentence after a couple decades on good behavior, instead dying of a heart attack at the pre-parole announcement concert the state had awarded him the opportunity of performing. The whole sordid affair aside, he played a mean fiddle and although the scandal tainted his legacy, no western swing fan could deny his place in the history of that tradition.
Happy Birthday, Spade!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ike Turner 1931-2007

KWUR favorite Ike Turner died yesterday from unannounced causes, although the musician was reported to have emphysema. Turner has been a fixture in the Rock and Roll, Blues and Soul genres for over 50 years. Turner and his "Kings of Rhythm" are credited for recording the first ever rock and roll song (though this designation is highly disputed). The song, Rocket 88, was released by Sun Studios of Memphis in 1951, under the name Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats. Turner's extensive discography includes rock and roll, R&B, blues, soul and funk, and somehow he manages to be prolific in all of these genres.

He is most famous for his work with his ex-wife, Tina (Turner claims he has been married 14 times, although only four are officially documented). The two released numerous recording together over their 16 year relationship. Turner's solo work, however, is nothing to scoff at. For an excellent example check out 1969s "A Black Man's Soul." Released while still together with Tina, the album is one of the first albums ever that you could call "funk," though released before the genre was even considered as such .

Though Turner could be considered a musical chameleon, one thing has remained constant throughout his long career: a turbulent personal life. Turner started abusing drugs heavily in the early sixties and it is not clear if he ever stopped. He spent 4 years in jail in the mid sixties after being caught with large amounts of cocaine. His marriage to Tina is remembered in the popular consciousness more for his purported domestic abuse than for their musical collaborations. Often demonized by the press, Turner's musical career was seriously hurt by his abuse of Tina and his output of new albums slowed significantly after their 1976 divorce.

Most recently, Turner won a Grammy for his 2001 album "Here and Now" and has been working on various collaborations. He played keyboard for the Gorillaz album "Demon Days" and even toured with the group. Prior to his death he was working on a collaboration with The Black Keys, which was supposed to be released next year.

Ike Turner, one of the most underrated musicians and songwriters of our generation will be sorely missed.

Keep on rockin' it on the other side, Ike!!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Subversive Cinema: Jim Henson's Time Piece

Maybe it's not that surprising that Jim Henson (of Muppet fame) was an accomplished experimental animator and film maker.

In addition to forever changing the worlds of puppetry and children's television, he frequently made experimental shorts on the side. These included an experimental television piece titled The Cube.

However, his masterpiece in the experimental arena is undoubtedly 1965's Time Piece. The 9 minute film debuted at the Museum of Modern Art and had a short arthouse/festival run. In 1967 the film was nominated for an Academy Award in "Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects". Recently the film has been preserved by the Academy Film Archive.

Dislocation in time, time signatures, time as a philosophical concept, and slavery to time are some of the themes touched upon in this nine-minute, experimental film"

I think this brilliant film proves once and for all that Jim Henson truly was a visionary.



Friday, December 07, 2007

KWUR's own gain fame and fortune

They (Andy Warhol) say that in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. Maybe instead, they should have said "on the internet," and instead of "will be famous" they should have said "will be mentioned on the blog of a popular webcomic."
Our very own Newsworthy Ghost Island has experienced just such an event-- one of their sketches was mentioned on the blog of Wondermark, a pretty well-regarded web comic. You can hear the sketch, "Minion," at their archive of sketches. The sketch consists of a series of interviews with the henchmen (minions) of a mad scientist/supervillian.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Galas Del Sabado

A couple weeks back, I was unable to get to bed, and instead, I was started on a YouTube adventure by my friends (and former employers) at the Archive of Contemporary Music blog. Most of the best things on YouTube, if you ask me, are the salvage jobs; things people have saved from old video recordings or old film prints and graciously put on the YouTube for everyone to see. The subject of today's post is a program called "Galas Del Sabado", which aired on the Spanish government/publically run station "Television Espanola" during the sixties and seventies. It was basically your average sixties variety show, with musical performances, comedy, all that jazz, that ran for an hour every Saturday night. Except it was in Fascist, Francoist Spain.

Here are some fun performances from the program, both musical:

Gotta love the presentation on this one, even if the song is sorta insipid:

And then of course, there's also comedy, uh, of a certain sort:

Not knowing the language, and not really knowing much more about this program then what I could dig up on the internet, I can't really comment about this in depth. Just that it astounds me that performers could keep it going under Franco's regime. Granted, "Limon Limonero" isn't bringing down the state anytime soon. But Marisol, the Spanish Lulu-type in the first video, was secretly a member of the Communist Party. And some of these groups were legitimately rocking, most specifically, the Spanish group from this period that everyone has probably heard of, Los Bravos:

Los Bravos hit it big state-side with the song "Black Is Black" (in case you ever wondered who sang that song, it's these guys), hitting number 4 in the US and number 2 in the UK. The band was sort of a supergroup formed from two Madrid rock bands. In 66, they moved to Mod UK and recorded most of their hits. The organist is a sad story, unfortunately. He killed his girlfriend in an auto accident and then felt so guilty that he shot himself. Anywho, Los Bravos certainly had a lot of fun while it lasted, making two Beatles-like movies. Here are some more of the groovy sixties stylings of Los Bravos, this time in English, for all you gringos:

Gotta love the lead singer. That's good showmanship, right there.

By the way, in case you're interested, the Archive of Contemporary Music, the fellows responsible for this wild goose chase, is having their biannual fundraising sale from December 8th to the 16th. If you happen to be in New York City, swing by 54 White Street. There's tons of excellent vinyl priced to go, and even a whole bunch of neat, cheap CDs. Tell them Dylan sent you. They'll probably charge you more.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Evolution of the Trailer

One thing which has always caught my interest is the film trailer-- a minute-long montage meant to capture the entirety of a film in order to get the audience to want to see it. There are a lot of ways of doing this, with most current films going to the default option. I speak, of course, of the form used by every action movie; man with deep voice explains concept briefly while the screen is black, sudden action shot to "surprise" you (an explosion, if possible), a few random, out-of-context action shots more, and then the date the movie will be released. Sometimes this is done well, and sometimes this is done badly. Of course, there's a variant which is actually quite similar for the quirky romantic comedy-- light music, with the sound to a scene starting early while the title or name of a star shows on the screen, a few lighthearted scenes are shown, etc.

Really what I'm getting at is that there are some trailers which are made well, and some which are made horribly. I'd always loved the idea that one day there would be a trailer which completely misled the audience about the nature of the movie-- a trailer which showed a happy film where the film was a slasher pic, or something of that nature. This has been done to some degree by the false trailers made by amateurs for youtube, some of which are brilliant-- for example, Brokeback to the Future

On the other hand, the trailer for Federico Fellini's "Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria)" has the same effect in a real trailer.

The real film, of course, is basically about how an aging prostitute is screwed over by the world, left destitute and alone, etc. I realize that the trailer indicates that this was for a translated re-release, but I am pretty sure that a similar trailer was used for the original release of the film. Many of the scenes shown are taken out of context in a way which makes them appear much happier than they are.

On the other hand, there are some trailers which completely reject any sort of encapsulation of the plot-- this trailer, for Ermanno Olmi's 1961 satire "Il Posto ("The Position" or "The Job")" just tries to get the aesthetic of the film across, over some nice jazz. I don't know how successful it is, especially with the break in the middle for the dance scene, but it's still nice--

maybe I only like this one because I love the film, though.

For a more modern, commercial, less art-house example, the first trailer for "Superman Returns" was utterly beautiful. Without really showing any plot points from the film, or even hinting at the plot, the trailer slowly builds up to the final reveal of Superman's face, followed of course by the "S". The trailer brings out the concept of Superman without revealing any elements of the plot, which is perfect for a character so archetypal, as well as one so deeply seated in the American psyche. Of course, the timing of the film helps-- perhaps the first time since the Cold War where Americans have felt the need for a hero like Superman, unlike the anti-heroic Batman of the 90's Tim Burton films. Maybe it's just a lifetime of loving Superman, but this one gives me chills every time. The understatedness only makes it more effective.

On a completely different tack, I love the trailer for "American Hardcore." It seemed pretty ironic that a film about hardcore was so long, and had so little momentum. The trailer captured everything I needed to know from the film as far as I'm concerned-- the film itself was more like a 20-minute Bonham drum solo than anything you'd hear at a punk show. I love hardcore punk because it's fast and energetic, and that's what I love about this trailer.

Well anyway, that's all I have to say for now, but maybe some day I'll bring up some more. I love well-made ads in general, so it's very likely I'll post something about this in the future.