During Spring Semester 2014 I had the awesome opportunity to work on an independent study with one of my favorite professors at Ohio University. Prof. Mattson studies cultural history now, but he was involved in the activism associated with the hardcore punk scene in Washington DC during the 1980s. The Punk Movement has always been a side passion of mine, and so the opportunity to get to know Prof. Mattson and study under him was excellent.
Over the course of the semester I researched DIY in Punk, and various approaches to it. Eventually I settled on a comparison of idealistic and pragmatic approaches to DIY represented by Crass and Dischord Records respectively. As Dischord is based out of DC I got a lot of great advice from Mattson during the research process as well as some insightful anecdotes about the individuals I was reading about. Shortly after completing the paper, as far as the course and the university were concerned, I reached out to Penny Rimbaud of Crass who agreed to a phone interview.
And so I spent an hour on the phone with a Punk legend, discussing his understanding of his own legacy, the motivations behind the radical actions Crass took during their career and even his two near misses at meeting John Lennon. Rimbaud was extremely polite and very down to Earth, he refused to admit that Crass failed at what they were after just because the large-scale rebellion they were interested in hasn’t happened yet. Most of all, he was very interested in preserving the documents of Crass’s legacy so that those of us who weren’t alive at the time can still understand what their work was about.
The paper I wrote, “Revolution by Example: Idealism vs. Pragmatism in DIY Punk” has been accepted for presentation this Fall at the Midwest Pop Cultural Association Conference, and I’m very excited to share my research with a larger audience. I’m fascinated by The Punk Movement because I believe that the technologies available to us today make possible the sorts of grassroots organizing and impactful personal expression that Punk was so interested in. That’s why I can’t wait to share the stories of figures like Penny Rimbaud and Crass, who may be lesser known to the mainstream, but were instrumental in developing the way we think about DIY, Punk and cultural expression as a whole.
During the late 90’s a strange thing was happening in Hip Hop music. Subject matter was shifting away from socially-conscious and community minded lyrics to more self-aggrandizing “Gangsta” style writing. On the fringes of the genre however, some of the most interesting experimentation in it’s brief history was happening unbeknownst to much of the general public. In 1996, DJ Shadow released his groundbreaking debut LP, “Endtroducing…”, the first full-length to be created from entirely sampled material according to Guinness World Records. Around the same time, another West Coast DJ, Cut Chemist, was producing Instrumental Hip Hop 7″s in addition to his work with Jurassic 5. In 1999, the two joined forces for a dual-headlining tour in support of their instrumental work. During the rehearsals for this tour, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist cut a live to tape LP entitled “Brainfreeze”.
The mix combines the styles of each DJ, with funk-flavored grooves out of Cut Chemist’s wheelhouse and vocal samples so obscure they can barely be attributed, brought to the table by DJ Shadow. The opening section of the tape is based around audio from a trailer for a kung-fu film produced by the defunct Cannon Group entitled Thunder Kick, which never even had a theatrical release. This vocal is laid over a funky re-imagining of the opening them from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Oddysey, a dramatic opening for an inspiring piece of underappreciated post-modernism.
The rest of the mix combines various genres (primarily funk) with aspects of 1990s Turntablism and the hybrid genre Trip Hop (a combination of electronic music and hip hop). It’s 52 minute run-time (with a break halfway through only for the benefit side change of a vinyl record) seems intimidating if you’re unfamiliar with the genre or mix-tapes as a musical format. However, it’s an enthralling listen that flies by and leaves you wanting more of its bizarre aesthetic.
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist would go on to produce two more collaborative mix-tapes (2001’s “Product Placement” and 2007’s “The Hard Sell”) all of which were only distributed at live shows and are thus out of print (though they’re fairly easy to find on YouTube and fan forums). However, “Brainfreeze” being the original is perhaps the most significant in that it was the first tape produced in this live format by these two skillful DJs simultaneously cueing tracks on multiple turntables and samplers and then playing them off of one another to create a smooth cohesive hour-long mix.
I can’t afford to go to all of the concerts I want to this summer. So I made an infographic to help my friends and I make the decision. I’ll probably go with either a combo of one average show and the Of Montreal show, or just one of the big festival shows.
Cincinnati went from not getting any good alt-rock shows when I was in high school to getting tons of them each summer now that I’m in college. I think part of it is the rise of touring as a revenue source for musicians, but there are also now much nicer venues in Cincy thanks to renovations and the construction of the Horseshoe this year. What show(s) are you excited about this year?
via Tumblr http://attractiveday.tumblr.com/post/47041056719
This is an infographic I made for Content Curation class. It’s meant to be a beginner’s guide or intro to the OFWGKTA, or Odd Future, hip hop collective, focusing mainly on their musical contributions. I’m really intrigued by the way OF has set up their group and love the immediacy of their creative process (even if the work is outside my usual genre).
Despite their reputation as inexperienced teenage pranksters, Odd Future are a surprisingly organized and well managed collective. They have merchandised their brand extremely effectively and created paid positions for dozens of employees through their various endeavors. Though their music is admittedly juvenile, as is their fanbase, the group are a serious business entity beneath the surface and a critical force to be reckoned with.
A friend was going through a quarter life crisis recently and said that one of his issues was that he’s been too into hipster culture and now feels like he’s entirely unrelatable. I consoled him, saying “There’s always someone more hipster than you, Beck Hansen”.
In case you’ve forgotten during his long hiatus Beck Hansen is an indie-pop singer/songwriter who has a habit of completely changing his style upon each release. He gained moderate mainstream success with 1993’s “Loser” and 2005’s “Girl”, and has collaborated with everyone from Pearl Jam to Childish Gambino.
Beck’s latest release, “Song Reader”, proves once again that he is the uberhipster. Someone so obscure that no other human being could possibly come close. “Song Reader” is not an album or a single, it is a book of sheet music composed by Beck to be played by a small ensemble. Hansen has refused to release a recorded performance of the album, forcing non-musicians to seek out versions performed by others.
In fact, up until this week the music community at large was subjected to poor quality YouTube videos if they wished to hear “Song Reader”. Thankfully though the bastion of all hipsterdom, NPR, posted a full album performance from the excellent musicians at The Portland Cello Project. And I must say, even performed by a cello-based group with female vocalists “Song Reader” still feels like a Beck album. It’s full of alt-country twang like his earlier material, but has some really big ethereal tracks like his middle “Sea Change” period.
But even if the album were crap, Beck would still have made his point. He is more obscure than you or any of your friends will ever be. Though not nearly as experimental as other hipster acts like Animal Collective and of Montreal, Beck has proven himself once again as the most obscure musician out there.
I really kind of hope this turns into a mini-trend where other artists emulate “Song Reader” and release music for live performance. Partially because performance possesses a level of intimacy that even vinyl can’t come close to. But mostly so that when Fun. puts out a full score I can say that such a move was really only cool the first time around with Beck way back in 2012.
Tame Impala is such a great band. They have just the right amounts of every type of psychedelia. And this track is so beautiful I can’t stop listening to it. The vocals almost sound like George Harrison, and the atmosphere builds in a really cool way throughout.
via Tumblr http://attractiveday.tumblr.com/post/39661330917
There’s a vlogger on YouTube who claims to be “The Internet’s Busiest Music Nerd”. I don’t know if that’s true, or who gave him that title, but he does know quite a lot of music and he’s recently been showing his viewers through his vinyl collection for fun. In the most recent of these side videos he briefly showed off his copy of the first record by a band from the late-70s called The Undertones, who I’ve since fallen in love with.
Essentially, The Undertones are a combination of The Beatles, The Small Faces and The Ramones which just so happens to make them one of the first ever Pop-Punk bands. Now, I love Pop-Punk, so to hear that this band nearly created the genre was quite exciting for me, and I must say they really do live up to that reputation. Their sound takes that early punk guitar sound of The Ramones, adds in a bit of glam keyboards and tops it off with lyrics about teenage angst and love set to pop melodies.
The Undertones formed as a pop-rock cover band in Derry, North Ireland in the mid-early 1970s. It wasn’t until The Ramones and other massive figures in early Punk became popular in the UK in 1976 that The Undertones began writing original tracks that combined their pop influences with the new Punk sound. After establishing a following in Ireland The Undertones sent a demo to five record labels, all of which turned them down. However, renowned music nerd and BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel received a copy of their demo and instantly fell in love.
Peel financed the band’s first four track EP, which ultimately got them signed to Sire later in 1977, and claimed throughout his life that The Undertones’ break-through single “Teenage Kicks” was his favorite song of all time.
Because of their Pop influence and generally well behaved nature, The Undertones never gained the fame or infamy of contemporaries such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash. However, their Pop/Punk hybrid would ultimately spawn one of Punk’s most successful sub-genres.
The Undertones split in 1983 when lead vocalist Feargal Sharkey left the group due to artistic differences. They reunited without him in 1999 and have been touring and releasing albums since.
Below is a playlist of some of The Undertones best tracks, which really show the beginnings of what we now call Pop-Punk.
Soul Pancake began as a book by actor Rainn Wilson, you probably know him as Dwight Schrute, and a few of his friends. The book discussed what they viewed to be some of life’s most important questions and thoughts. These were then transferred to a website and most recently a YouTube Channel.
The only non-rotating series on the channel is Art Attack, wherein artists are given a single word theme and asked to create a piece while being filmed time-lapse style. The videos are uploaded each Friday and are typically about 5 minutes long for easy digestion. Quite inspiring and always entertaining, Art Attack showcases some great talent in all sorts of mediums. <br/ >
I really love playlists. Particularly well-crafted ones that fit to a particular mood. Thus, about once a month I build some sort of master list of songs fitting my mood. This December I’m really enjoying sparse, empty music.
I don’t know if it was the recent release of How To Destroy Angels’ An Omen EP or what, but empty soundscapes are really catching my ear right now. I re-listened to the first HTDA EP, as well as Trent Reznor’s various ambient work for scores and such; from there I’ve been revisiting a lot of electronic stuff like Burial and some of the more atmospheric Moby albums.
Below I’ve compiled a brief list of some of the tracks I’ve really been digging in this phase.