Just bought a weekend pass for Psych Fest at the Seaholm Power Plant in Austin. Cost me $100. Thank God my tax refund came back in time. Looks like a great lineup. I’m looking forward to seeing the Black Angels (who are curating the event), Crocodiles, Roky Erickson (of course), and whoever I might discover. Stay tuned for a report.
I saw Echotone last night and just as I expected, it was beautiful and thought-provoking. Named for the transition between two adjacent but different types of landscape, the documentary explores the collision of Austin’s downtown construction boom and its music culture. The cinematography is incredible — much of the movie was filmed from the top of construction cranes. Echotone also has one of the best indie soundtracks I’ve heard, featuring music by Belaire, Sunset, The Black Angels, Dana Falconberry, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, The White White Lights and more (you can download it for free from Paste Magazine).
The movie gives us a close-up with musicians with different outlooks and situations — Black Joe Lewis, recently signed to Universal and already huge, but still so broke he makes ends meet delivering fish; Dana Falconberry and Belaire’s Cari Palazzolo, so independent, just trying to make music they think is beautiful without starving; Sunset’s lead singer Bill Baird, whose band Sound Team was apparently headed for the big time before getting abruptly dropped from Capitol after the label merged with EMI, still making music, a bit sadder and a lot wiser than he used to be. All affected by the economy and the music industry’s woes, as well as the changes in Austin.
When I went into the theater I already had an idea of what I was going to say about it later. I was cooking up a little rant — about all the spoil sports moving into Austin, wrecking the music culture and ruining the city I love. I was just looking for ammunition. As it turns out, the documentary was a lot more nuanced than I expected. I ended up leaving the theater in a strangely hopeful mood. Yes, Austin is changing rapidly and times are tough for local musicians and the people who care about them. But not all the changes are negative, and musicians are beginning to organize and find their political voice.
All those high rises and condos in downtown Austin changed the character of the city, there’s no doubt about it. They made housing in central Austin more expensive, putting the squeeze on musicians — and families too, for that matter. But if they hadn’t been built, think of the added sprawl, all the land that would’ve been gobbled up, trees chopped down, wilderness paved over. It’s not all bad.
I’ve grumbled plenty of times about people moving into high rise apartments in the entertainment district and grousing about the noise at city council meetings. It wasn’t some anti-musician conspiracy that led to that situation. As Oveisi noted in the Q&A, it’s simply the fact that when all that downtown growth was being planned, musicians didn’t have a place at the table. The city didn’t have staff dedicated to musicians (now they do) and musicians haven’t been especially organized or politically active (something AMP hopes to change).
There are things that can be done to save Austin’s music culture. Musicians can get organized and vote, become more entrepreneurial. Fans can do the same, as well as supporting the bands they love by turning out for shows and spending a bit on albums and cover charges.
Change is inevitable. Maybe instead of bemoaning and cursing it, Austin’s creative class can learn to adapt. It’s definitely worth trying.
If you live in Austin and didn’t get in to see Echotone yet, the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz Theater scheduled an extra showing on May 1 after theater sold out for the third time in a row. The film will also be shown in some festivals around the country, including the Hill Country Film Festival in Fredericksburg, April 28-30.
Hanging around the house, not being at church on Easter Sunday, I figured the least I could do is dig up some Easter music and I did find some good stuff. I think it’s interesting to hear the way people express the same theme in different parts of the world.
I just got a hankering for some Peter Frampton and had no idea it was his birthday. I must be psychic. He’s 61 today.
“Whose wine, what wine, where the hell did I dine?” Haha, I still love that song. I loved it, and Frampton since I was 13 and the cool assistant scoutmaster played it on his 8-track on the way to Boy Scout Camp. Back in the ’70s, back when Frampton still had hair.
Austin is famous for it’s music — the Live Music Capital of the World, or so they say. But the city is also the fastest-growing city in Texas and all those new people and that high demand for real estate is changing things, making it tough for musicians and music lovers. Thanks to a discussion on 91.7 KOOP this afternoon I found out about a documentary called Echotone that covers that subject and gets great reviews. It will be shown at the Alamo Drafthouse several times in the next few days and I plan to see it. It features music from Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Belaire, Sunset, The Black Angels, Ghostland Observatory, Dana Falconberry, The Octopus Project, and others.
Like many Americans I am fascinated by Japanese culture. Of course I appreciate the deeply traditional parts of their culture — gardens, calligraphy, geishas, sushi, martial arts. But what I really love is Japanese pop culture.
Just about every generation of Americans alive today has sentimental attachment to some aspect of it. Godzilla, Gamera, ninjas, anime, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, the characters of Japanese video games.
And karaoke. It used to be something crazy Japanese businessmen did after work. Now it’s as American as apple pie. Most don’t even realize it’s a Japanese word. I love the way the Japanese take what they like from American culture — rock ‘n’ roll for example — and put their own special twist on it. I have some established favorites among Japanese musicians, like Ryuichi Sakamoto (of Yellow Magic Orchestra) and Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada). I’ve also picked up a few new favorites.
Since the very day I started this blog I have been planning to talk about some of my favorite Japanese musicians, but I put it off because I wanted to get it right. Then came the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami and I thought, “Oh crap, I wonder if we just just lost some of them?” With as many people as they lost — 10,000 dead and 17,000 missing last time I checked — it’s possible, although I don’t know of any musicians who didn’t make it. A couple of my recently-discovered favorites dropped out of touch for a while, but I’ve since gotten hold of them and found out they are OK.
Mitsugu Suzuki, who performs under the name Cellz Cellar, creates some of the most moving music I’ve heard in a long time. His styles include inspired ambient, shoegaze and electronica. Most of his music is instrumental, but he also works with singers. He is an admirer of Western music and shows incredible taste based on the covers he chooses (Bjork’s ”Army of Me” and Radiohead’s “Nude”). I made friends with him and became a huge fan back when I was active on TheSixtyOne. He’s also the Japanese musician I was especially worried about — he lives in Kanagawa, which was hit by the tsunami, though it wasn’t as severely damaged as other cities. I was relieved when I finally got hold of him and he told me he was all right.
My favorite Cellz Cellar song so far is Epiphillum, featuring vocals from Shuichi Mizohata:
I discovered this young lady while digging deep in TheSixtyOne. She’s an amazing pianist who performs what I would call modern classical music. She describes herself as a sound artist/music composer/pianist and visual artist.
In addition to piano, she makes music with electronics and sound installation. She reminds me a bit of Ryuichi Sakamoto and in fact, she has had some of her music featured on his radio show in Japan. So far she has put out an EP called Piano Prizm and a full-length album called Waterproof. She used hydrophone for Waterproof, creating an underwater piano sound. I REALLY like the title track from that album.
Here she is performing music for an art exhibit about snow sculpture called “White Noise/Snow Division”
Ichiko Hashimoto – RahXephon soundtrack I have to admit I don’t really “get” anime – maybe I didn’t try hard enough, but the anime movies I’ve seen so far sorta left me flat – so I might have overlooked this music if not for a user on Rate Your Music. Hashimoto’s songs cover a wide range of styles – acid jazz, pop, classical, trip hop, and various fusions of the above. Some of the songs have a spacey, mysterious ambience that reminds me of Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes. I can’t seem to get enough of them. One of the songs, “Yume no Tamago” is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. I found an English version, but I prefer the Japanese by far:
I’ve known about these guys for several years, but I still love them. They play a kind of jazzy pop, very piano driven, most of it upbeat. They remind me of Ben Folds Five in their style. They have a ton of videos up on YouTube. I found them because I decided to look up the girl who sang on “Mars” by Towa Tei. Her name is Harada Ikuko. She has a nice voice and is a pretty good keyboard player as well. Their official website is in Japanese, and I can’t read it, but there is an English fan site, http://clammbon.metalbat.com, with a lot of information about the band — including the fact that they made it through the earthquake and tsunami OK. The site also has a page with several links showing how to buy Clammbon’s material outside Japan.
This is “Chicago,” one of my favorite songs from the group:
Two of modern rock and metal's most creative and ambititious frontmen, Eugene Hütz from Gogol Bordello and Max Cavalera from Soulfly/Cavalera Conspiracy/ex-Sepultura, have announced to Brazillian press that they are planning a future collaboration! In a O Globo magazine interview with Hütz, he stated "doing something as friends is easy, organizing something is much more difficult — and in any case, everyone is my friend!" when he was asked about … Read More
I had another adventure in east Austin last week (translation: got lost and used up a half a tank of gas), but all was well in the end, as I discovered another talented musician: Fielded (Lindsay Powell). The Chicago-based singer was part of a concert last Thursday in a little music store called Trailer Space Records. There were a number of local artists performing as well, but I had to leave early and only caught one — the electro-psyche-goth performer known as How I Quit Crack (Ernestina Forbis).
Fielded put on a hell of a show. A one-woman band, she uses looping to create harmonies and rhythms using her voice. Kind of a gothic vibe to her music, though interestingly enough she actually performs gospel music of a sort. One of her songs made me think of a Gregorian chant. Kind of makes me think of Woven Hand in that respect. Here’s a video for one of the songs I particularly enjoyed.
As much as I enjoy a good horror movie, I don’t watch many of them, because frankly most of them suck. That makes it really special when I find one that doesn’t.
A few years ago my brother turned me onto a quirky, low budget horror movie called May starring Angela Bettis, which came out in 2002. I got two shocks: 1) the movie was very good, and 2) the soundtrack was amazing.
May, the movie
The movie, in case you haven’t seen it, is about a strange, strange young woman named May who has such a hard time connecting with people that she ends up killing a bunch of them. And she does something creative and horrible with them at the end. It’s awful, but it’s also full of black humor. You sympathize with May and her struggle to fit in. She’s just SO weird, you can’t help but be amused — her best friend is a doll encased in glass that she believes is talking to her.
And it’s amusing to see the people she tries to make friends with try to show how weird and individualistic they are, when in truth they are trendy and shallow and have no idea what a TRULY weird character May is. I kept thinking, “You poser, you have no idea what you’re messing with.” You can easily find out what she does in the end with a few searches, but don’t spoil things for yourself. Watch the movie. If you can’t find a place to rent it you can buy it pretty cheap on Amazon.
May, the soundtrack
In addition to an entertaining story and good acting from Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto and others, May has something else unusual — a very impressive indie rock soundtrack. When I watched it I kept thinking, “I want to hear the entire song. I must have this.” When I first I checked into it, the soundtrack wasn’t available. I found out the songwriter and performer was a woman named Jammes Luckett, aka Jaye Barnes Luckett. I also found out I wasn’t alone. There were a lot of people online talking about that soundtrack and begging.
I kind of forgot about it over the years, but for some reason I thought of it recently and got an impulse to look for it again. And found it! I got it in the mail a few weeks ago and it spent a very long time in my CD player. Not only does the CD contain songs from May, it has numerous other works Luckett produced for films — some released, some not.
The styles range from postpunk-influenced indie rock that Siouxsie Sue would be proud of, to classical instrumental music.
I did a little more digging and found some background on Luckett. She has also performed as Poperratic and Alien Tempo Experiment 13, and she does graphic design and other visual work. She’s working on her website at the moment, so who knows how awesome it might be later, but it already contains quite a few videos showcasing her musical and graphic work. Music ranges from indie rock, to classical to urban.
I got the soundtrack at La La Land Records, a label that specializes in soundtracks. It’s a 1,000-copy limited edition, but it only costs $5.98. Worth every penny. I would order one before they run out.
Here’s my favorite song from the May soundtrack, performed under the pseudonym Alien Tempo Experiment 13:
Just found out Electro-freaks, a group of electronic artists and fans who originated on TheSixtyOne is still going outside the website and has put together a downloadable album to benefit the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. They already raised $1,500 after about a week. If that kind of music turns your motor, or you’d just like to chip in, visit www.electrofreakspresent.com.
The fundraiser should run for about another week, so get your copy of EFP Vol. 3 soon.
I’m told the album will be available after the fundraiser. Still, why wait?