December 24, 2005

Folk Songs For The Five Points

Five_Points.jpgAnd while we’re on the subject of remixed field recordings, here’s an inspired online project, initiated by the New York Tenement Museum, which sets out to explore the formation of identity in a place in terms of the sounds of that place.

On a map of New York’s Lower East Side, a series of dots are displayed which correspond to site-specific recordings of ambient noise, musical performances and interviews with local residents. By moving the positions of five interconnected points, a visitor can create and save a mix of these recordings to produce their own environmental sound “folk song”. (via We Make Money Not Art)

A lovely idea, beautifully realised… And something for you to play with and enjoy over the festive season.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Posted by Warren at 12:17 AM

December 23, 2005

Toothbrushes of Myanmar

Toothbrush.jpgThe sound of the toothbrush is essentially rhythmic. Opening and closing your mouth produces a wah-wah-like effect… almost melodic… Many bathrooms have excellent reverb. Future toothbrush freaks will notice that the sound is drier with less or no toothpaste at all, while it becomes quite juicy with lots of foam. All is a question of balance...

When you find “production notes” like this in a CD booklet, you know you’re in for a treat... The CD they come from is Toothbrush Fever, a collection of quirky field-recording-based compositions put together by Naing Naing (aka Francois L’Homer), a veteran of the Parisian hardcore scene who currently works as a Red Cross translator in Myanmar, where he spends his spare time obsessively recording anything that excites his ear. In addition to toothbrushes, his sound sources include frogs, birds, crickets, generators and ice cubes; and, as you might guess from the quoted liner notes, there’s a wonderful sense of whimsy to much of his work.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than on Brosse A Danse, a stomping Matmos-goes-clubbing number featuring the aforementioned toothbrushes, a balloon, and some pertinent advice on dental hygiene. Download, lather, rinse and enjoy.

If you want to hear what the rest of the album has to offer, Francois’ website has an extensive collection of track excerpts, along with a complete version of Greensleeves “performed” by birds. And if you want to buy the CD, it can be purchased online from ReR Megacorp.

Posted by Warren at 11:28 PM

December 13, 2005

Unsilent Night Comes To Sydney: Bring Your Boomboxes To Town Hall On Saturday

BoomBox2.jpgUnsilent Night is, to quote its founder Phil Kline, an "outdoor ambient music piece for an INFINITE number of boom box tape players. It's like a Christmas carolling party except that we don't sing, but rather carry boom boxes, each playing a separate tape which is part of the piece. In effect, we become a city block long stereo system!"
Since its first performance in New York in 1992, its become an annual event that has spread to Vancouver, San Francisco, San Diego, Philadelphia, Middlesborough… and this year, it makes its debut in Sydney!

If you want to take part in this very special event, bring a boombox or portable stereo and rock up to Sydney Town Hall Steps at 8pm on Saturday Dec 17th. When you get there, you’ll be given a tape/CD, we’ll all press play, then go on a pleasant 40-minute stroll through the city and surrounding suburbs.

Please come along if you can. Everyone is welcome.

Posted by Warren at 09:25 PM

Good For What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows

Medicine_Show.jpgIn the days before broadcast mass media, one of the few venues that gave ordinary working folk of rural America a chance to hear professional non-local musicians was the travelling medicine show. Although they only served as the entrée to the serious business of hawking dubious cure-alls, the musicians in these shows were often highly accomplished performers who worked in such diverse genres as folk, country, blues or minstrelry. (On the country side, for instance, such icons as Jimmie Rodgers, Gene Autry, Roy Acuff and Hank Williams all cut their teeth performing on the medicine show circuit.)

And now, the work of these musicians has been compiled on Good For What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows 1926-1937. As you might expect, the songs they performed were largely rollicking, good-time ditties designed to soften up the rubes for the arrival of the good Doctor and his miracle remedy. Here’s just a small sample of them:

The Gypsy by Emmett Miller & His Georgia Crackers
Miller was a blackface minstrel who worked during the final years of this offensive musical tradition. He has acquired a lasting fame, though, for his ability to fuse hillbilly music with jazz, and his recordings went on to influence artists like Hank Williams and Merle Haggard. This track is one of his more whimsical outings, which basically consists of a comedy routine about a scamming spiritualist set to music.

Beans by Beans Hambone and El Morrow
This is a garbled reworking of a vaudeville standard in which the lyrics are forgotten and Hambone wanders off on a ramble about the omnipresence of beans, while some form of homemade guitar is plucked in the background.

Nobody’s Business If I Do by Tommie Bradley
Finally, here’s a 1932 version of the song that launched Bessie Smith’s career, which we played on the show on Friday. (Historical trivia: the song was written in 1922 by Porter Grainger, who was an open homosexual. Kind of gives a new resonance to lyrics like “If I dislike my lover / And leave her for another”.)

And there are another 45 tracks on this jam-packed compilation which comes complete with a highly informative 70 page booklet and can be purchased through Amazon or Forced Exposure.

Posted by Warren at 09:18 PM

December 07, 2005

Whistle While You Work Ghanaian Style

Ghana.jpgSelection Thirteen… Postal workers canceling stamps at the University of Ghana Post Office… This is easily one of the most beautiful work songs I have ever heard. Its basically four postal workers whistling along to polyrhythmic stamping that I assume is produced using the tools of their trade. The track comes from a book/CD-ROM called Worlds of Music: An Introduction to the Music of the World's Peoples, which can be purchased through Amazon. It was featured (once again) on the WFMU blog (link to entry).

Posted by Warren at 10:40 PM

Christmas Mash-Ups & Sleazy Promos

Stocking stuffer time… With a couple of collections of downloadable treats recently featured on the ever-fabulous Music For Maniacs. One of them has a festive theme, the other is just seedy schlock from the golden age of exploitation cinema.

Santastic.jpgFirst up is Santastic, the mash-up community’s contribution to the spirit of the season. Included in it are 18 tracks of mangled festive tunes with titles like Santa’s Acid Hawaiian Space Disco, The Nutbreaker, and Turbo Sleigh Ride. The perfect antidote to the annual onslaught of Bing-drones and muzak choirs.
(And if you want more of this sort of thing, check out this Christmas cut-up compendium by Wayne Butane from the WFMU monthly download site.)

Mandingo.jpgHaving nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas (unless you want to draw a tenuous link between commercial exploitation of a Christo-pagan festival and exploitation cinema) is this assortment of ‘70’s radio spots for sleaze-n-schlock flicks like The Naughty Stewardesses, Females For Hire and Dr Tarr’s Torture Dungeon, which have been ripped from their original 7-inch records and given a home of the web by blogger and trash movie aficionado, toestubber. (The image on the left comes from the cover of the token big studio release in the collection, Mandingo.)

Posted by Warren at 10:05 PM

December 02, 2005

The Sound of Icebergs

Iceberg.jpgAnd now a very special field recording captured by a group of German scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research while recording seismic signals in the Antarctic. It’s the sound of a massive 50 by 20km iceberg slowly grinding its way over a submerged outcrop in the seabed. Normally, this is a sound that would go unheard by human ears, as the frequencies occupy a register far lower than what is audible to us (around 0.5 hertz apparently). But the scientists have sped it up so we are able to hear this geological event unfold for the first time. (via WFMU)

Posted by Warren at 10:01 PM

One-Armed Bassmeister Extraordinaire

Clements.jpgMusic Thing has become something of a one-stop shop for videos of extreme rifforrhea. The latest addition to their collection of virtuoso musos “playing far, far too many notes” is actually rather inspiring. His name is Bill Clements, and he is a bass player from Kalamazoo, Michigan with only one arm. Here he is in action (wmv), using his one fully functioning upper appendage to maximum effect. Seriously impressive stuff and, if the music’s your cup of tea, then he has an album out that you can purchase through CDBaby.

Posted by Warren at 09:21 PM

December 01, 2005

Erotic Aerobics

Aerobic.jpgFor the benefit of Friday Brekkie listeners, here’s the link to the mp3s of Erotic Aerobics which were posted on the WFMU blog by Station Manager Ken a couple of weeks ago. Despite track titles like The Lover’s Lunge and The Shameless Shake, this 1982 album of suggestive workouts is a lot less sordid than you might expect. The faux-French instructor Pierre Raymonde is obviously a devout disciple of the old seductive threesome of soft lights, champagne and Bolero, and tries to inject this sort of “mood” into his routines. As you might expect, though, the results are more inadvertently comical than arousing… But what else would you expect from 1982? Download and enjoy.

Posted by Warren at 07:19 PM