This 10 second recording of a woman's voice buried beneath a blanket of static and distortion may not seem that momentous, but it is in fact the earliest piece of recorded music.
It was originally recorded back in 1860 by Frenchman Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville using a device called the phonautograph that traced the soundwaves out on a piece of blackened paper. At the time, however, there was no way of playing back the recording. The fact that we can hear it now is thanks to the work of the First Sounds project who created a "virtual stylus" to translate Scott de Martinville's 148 year old etchings into sound.
Right now, it’s a dangerous time to be an emo in Mexico. Venture outside with your overgrown angular fringe and eyeliner and you’re likely to be beaten senseless by local punks (or rockabillys or metalheads). The reason for such violence is the automatic association of effete dress codes with homosexuality; something which is a complete anathema to other supposed “alternative” types in Mexico.
Although ignorant thuggery by any subculture is deplorable, it's particularly sad to see such outbursts of homophobia from people who identify as punks; especially when you consider who originally inspired the name and style of that movement...
Looking for tasty hip-hop instrumental remixes of retro Vietnamese pop? How about if such aforementioned remixes were part of an attempt by the producer to connect with his cultural heritage? And proceeds from album sales were going to a good cause?
Well, that’s what you get with Chinoiseries, an album by French DJ Onra which came out of a visit to the land of his grandparents, Vietnam. While he was there, a local taxi driver helped him acquire 30 platters of 50’s & 60’s Viet-pop, and an orphanage worker named M. Hoa inspired him to produce something that might raise money for local street kids.
The 32 tracks on this album are all short, loop based affairs that revel in the melodies and crackly textures of their battered vinyl source materials. Here are two sample tracks:
From the vantage point of a couch in Australia, the Eurovision Song Contest (religiously broadcast every year by SBS) is an opportunity to revel in the seemingly insatiable European appetite for cheesy kitsch-pop. In the Caucasus, however, there is a far more serious side to the event.
For the republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, it’s a chance to advertise their desire to join the European mainstream, but in a region embroiled in long-standing dormant conflicts, it can also be a lightning rod for local enmities. This year, for instance, when Armenia announced its entry, which was to be performed by local starlet Andre Sirusho (pictured), Azerbaijan was enraged by the fact that Sirusho hails from the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh and was singing a “stolen” Azerbaijani folk song that they had planned to enter themselves. Since then, it seems that the Armenians have opted for a different song, but it’s unlikely that this will be the end of the issue…
The Harding Test is a set of algorithms that measure the level of rapid cuts, flicker patterns, and strobe effects in a piece footage, and their subsequent ability to induce epileptic fits in susceptible viewers.
It’s a test whose need became readily apparent after a 1997 “epidemic” of seizures that accompanied the screening an episode of the Pokemon series in Japan. (In that particular episode, the seizures were triggered by strobing red lights emanating from the eyes of the signature character, Pikachu.)
Recently, its most notable application was the temporary ban of the video of Gnarls Barkley’s new single “Run” (see the above piece of YouTubery) by British MTV. The supposedly seizure inducing part of the clip appears towards the end when moiré patterns swamp the background and flickering images of the word “RUN” worm their wary into the video.
So far, most discussions of post-digital-download music industry business models have had a fairly top down focus. We’ve seen the cartels angst over ways to resurrect their formerly bloated bottom lines; upper echelon artists, like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, flirt with free downloads; and smaller switched-on labels, like Magnatune, offer more equitable distributions of download incomes to the musicians on their rosters.
What we’ve seen less of, though, are bottom-up models that help individual artists farm an income on their own terms from internet distribution of their work.
Enter the 1000 True Fan Plan… Quite simply, it’s the idea that all you need as an artist is 1000 “true fans” (ie people who will religiously purchase anything you produce.) If you can provide this fan base with a steady supply of new product that they will happily spend up to $100 a year to acquire, then you have created a revenue stream that you can comfortably live on.
Time for a blast of old-time religious music coutesy of Life Is A Problem, a rousing compilation of rare gospel, sanctified blues and sacred steel recorded some time between the late 40's and early 60's.
Featured on this LP only release are an assortment of preachers and pious lay folk who know how to attack a tune and could quite easily have become "rock stars" in their day if they hadn't had such a disdain for the "devil's music". (One of the artists on the album, Reverend Lonnie Francis, even claimed to have been "offered a lot of money to play rock & roll". He consistently turned such offers down, however, and reveled in his ability to blow rock bands off the stage with his untouchable brand of sacred lap steel.)
On the show today, we featured three tracks from the LP. The first was "Seat in The Kingdom", a fairly straight ahead gospel number by The Crumb Brothers, an underage quartet who are notable for the astonishing vocal chops of their ten year old lead singer, "Sugar". This was followed by a 1956 anti-rock sermon by Elder Charles Beck which probably would have out-rocked almost anything else recorded at that time. The third track is something of an enigma; an abstract slide-guitar reworking of Amazing Grace by an unknown Oakland musician. It only came to light when it was saved from a fire by a local record collector who perished rescuing his kittens and the rest of that collection.
The album that all of these tracks come from came out last year on Mississippi Records. The release though was small and most of it was snapped up fairly quickly, so you might have to dig to find a copy. Mine, which I picked up about a month ago, came from German distributor, Music Berlin, who might hopefully still have a few tucked away.
FOOTNOTE: If you haven't checked in on the radio version of Rummage, you're running out of time to do so. In the next month or so, a restructure of the drive time band on 2SER will lead to the canning of the segment. I don't have a definitive date for its demise as yet, but I will keep you posted on any developments. (If you don't already know, it's currently broadcast and streamed online between 4pm & 5pm on Monday afternoons, Aussie Eastern Standard Time.)
Here’s a treat for any fans of Incredibly Strange Music out there… Luie Luie is an outsider lounge artist who first gained notoriety through the appearance of his signature tune “El Touchy” on Irwin Chusid’s genre-defining compilation, Songs In The Key Of Z.
Musically, El Touchy sounds like a slightly brain-fried Herb Alpert outtake; but the thing that makes it truly memorable is the fact that Luie bookends the music with some seriously effusive commentary in which he elaborates upon the structure and purpose of the Touchy. (In short, it begins with a wild trumpet intro that will prompt you to engage in uninhibited physical contact, then ends with a series of rhythmic stabs that signal the cessation of “touching”.)
The rest of the album that this track comes from follows a similar pattern – an impassioned preamble in which Luie intones nuggets of wide-eyed philosophy (mostly related to physical contact) followed by some increasingly demented take on lounge jazz.
For a long time, the album was a hard-to-find, much-sought-after artifact of musical weirdness but now, thanks to Companion Records, Touchy has been released on CD; complete with “Touchy Buttons” that listeners can attach to body parts that they want their partners to “touch”... Here are two tracks from the CD for you to enjoy: