American avant-garde composer Robert Ashley died March 3 at age 83 of natural causes. A key member of Sonic Arts Union with Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, and David Behrman, Ashley is renowned for his operas and theatrical pieces marked by imaginative, minimalist use of electronics and emotionally resonant deployment of language. My introduction to Ashley was Automatic Writing. “Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon” particularly struck me as one of the most disturbing musical pieces I’ve ever heard, despite being so sparse. In it, the combination of a traumatized woman’s stunned recitation of a twisted sexual encounter with beautiful yet sinister bells and strained groans is indelibly compelling. The polar opposite of this work might be Ashley's debut LP, In Sara, Mencken, Christ And Beethoven There Were Men And Women. It's madness of a highly refined sort, and beneath the surface microbial chaos, one can discern what sounds like a track from Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, more than 20 years before the fact.
Critic, composer, and Ashley biographer Kyle Gann observed, “Bob was one of the most amazing composers of the 20th century, and the greatest genius of 20th-century opera. I don’t know how long it’s going to take the world to recognize that. And it hardly matters. He knew it. That the world was too stupid to keep up was not his problem."
Read Gann's entire eulogy here.
Kurt Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington dedicated an almost unbelievably poorly-executed statue to the beloved Nirvana frontman—or as King 5's Dennis Bounds puts it, "the well known heroin addict who shot himself 20 years ago"—during their celebration of Curt Cobain Day yesterday.
The statue features the singer seated on a chair, a rip in the knee of his jeans, stiffly wrangling a guitar, with a tear rolling down his cheek—probably because the sculptor gave him "the Rachel" haircut.
Jamaican producer Wayne Smith, whose 1985 track with Noel Davey, "Under Me Sleng Teng," is credited with launching the reggae subgenre ragga, died Feb. 17 after being admitted into a Kingston, Jamaica hospital a few days earlier with stomach pains. He was 48.
Based on a riff from Eddie Cochran's "Somethin' Else" and played on a Casio MT-40, "Under Me Sleng Teng" set off a chain reaction of similar songs—at least 380 versions have been documented—using that indelible, elastically fibrillating electronic bass line. RIP, Wayne Smith.
Sad, sad news: Bob Casale (or "Bob 2") of Devo has passed away today from heart failure. Bob's brother Gerald Casale, also a founding memeber of Devo, wrote on the band's Facebook earlier today:
As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning. He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got. He was excited about the possibility of Mark Mothersbaugh allowing Devo to play shows again. His sudden death from conditions that lead to heart failure came as a total shock to us all.
Marty Thau, who managed glam-rock sensations the New York Dolls and ran the Red Star label, which released Suicide's immortal self-titled 1977 debut LP, passed away Feb. 13 from complications related to renal failure. He was 75.
Thau worked as an executive for Cameo-Parkway and Buddah Records in the last half of the '60s before joining Inherit, an independent production/publishing/management company. There he oversaw fantastic albums by Van Morrison (Astral Weeks and Moondance) and John Cale (Vintage Violence), among others. With Red Star, Thau co-produced Suicide with the great Craig Leon and put out record by the Fleshtones, Real Kids, Comateens, Bloodless Pharaohs, and more. In addition to these accomplishments, Thau worked with the Ramones, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Blondie, Martin Rev, and many others. He will be remembered as an indispensable catalyst of glam, punk, and synth-based music in New York City's thriving '70s music scene. RIP, Marty Thau.
I just learned '60s soul great James Timothy Shaw, better known as the Mighty Hannibal, has passed. FUCK. Hannibal began singing in his hometown of Atlanta in the early '50s in a group called the Overalls. This band also happened to contain fellers who would eventually become a couple of Gladys Knight's Pips!! In 1958 he moved to Los Angeles and, as Jimmy Shaw, made a great R&B record called "Big Chief Hug-Um An' Kiss-Um." He recorded a couple more sides then hooked up with Johnny Otis as a singer. Not soon after he left Otis to sing in a group containing H.B. Barnum and Jimmy Norman, this is also when he fell in league with heavies Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Larry Williams!
Around this time he became known as Mighty Hannibal. He recorded a few 45s for Pan World, but in 1962 he signed to the King label. Sadly, his tenure on King didn't last as he became a pimp and was dropped. He returned to Atlanta in 1965 and recorded the killer "Jerkin' the Dog." The song drew some attention. However, it wasn't till he recorded the anti-Vietnam War song, "Hymn No. 5," did he see some Top 40 action. It's a moving track, fantastic deep soul... gospel as a motherfucker! But then he then slid into dope and ended up in jail.
Once out of jail in 1970, he became King Hannibal and began recording again, funky anti-drug songs and more anti-war tracks. However, his fortunes waned in the late '70s, as he went gospel and then kinda vanished. It wasn't until Norton Records issued a collection of his soul sides, Hannibalism, that he was rediscovered. He began performing again and continued until recently. Oh, there was even a Hannibal documentary in 2009 called Showtime! Hannibal's 1966 floor filler, "Fishin' Pole," is always in my play box.
Uh... I hate to be the bringer of sad news but metalinsider reports that, Biquette the grindcore loving goat, died last month. Turns out, "she should have lived for another ten years." There was no cause given as to why she died.
Biquette, which is actually French for “goat,” was 10 years old, according to Flo (she put on shows at the farm). She’d spent the first half of her life in a milking factory, and was then handed over to the farm, where she immediately started to hang out at the shows. “Seeing as the barn floor where we throw the concerts is wooden, I think that she felt the vibrations in her hooves,” Flo said...Wormrot’s manager said that Biquette was very tame, and followed the Maylaysian grindcore band around like a dog. “When it was Wormrot’s turn to play, the goat suddenly went in front of the crowd and watched them play the whole set,” Azean Rot said.
If you're so inclined, Biquette had a Facebook™ page.
As Mr. Brendan Kiley posted earlier today, Phil Everly, one half of the rock and roll pair the Everly Brothers, died this past Friday. He had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as a result of being a lifelong cigarette smoker.
Phil was born in Kentucky into a music family, a country music family. His father even had a radio show on which he and older brother Don would regularly perform. The family eventually settled in Knoxville, Tennessee, where they continued to perform. This eventually led to them meeting Chet Atkins. With Atkins' help, the brothers struck out on their own and recorded a single for Columbia, "Keep'a Lovin' Me" b/w "The Sun Keeps Shining." Their formula was there, but the song was straight country; it went nowhere. However, they didn't give up and finally hit HUGE the following year when they recorded "Bye Bye Love." The song even charted on the R&B charts! For the next few years, after "Bye Bye Love," the fellers were more or less unstoppable. Eventually, military service, dalliances with speed, and music-industry bullshit slowed them down; by the time of the "British Invasion" their newer recordings were out of favor. Which is insane, dig this 1965 side - "The Price of Love"! Still, the brothers pressed on through the '60s, with few American chart hits, but with a run of amazing albums. Seriously, they were still killin' in 1967 with songs like "A Voice Within"! For their 1968 concept album, Roots, the brothers reintroduced proper country back into their...thing. It was a great album, but didn't yield a comeback. They survived into the early '70s with a couple more pop/country albums and then split. Phil went solo and settled into playing country-ish pop. In 1983 the brothers got back together and up through the '00s they were still performing.
Along with all '50s rock, the Everly Brothers were a pointed voice. In the context of 1950s Nashville, from where they sprang, there was slight unease when these boys embraced rock and roll, but then rock was just kids music, right? Listening to them now, it's easy to understand how their sweet and unique sound was perhaps more accepted than the frantic antics of some rock and roller. Good-looking white fellers which sang well could reach white kids somewhat safely. Like, they were disarming boys who could lull listeners into romance with a proper pop ballad like "All I Have To Do Is Dream," but then lay down some Little Richard rock and it wouldn't set off ALL the parental alarms. The kids knew, however. So, with such a great reach, the Everlys were heard and, being unlike any other rock group, affected everyone who was listening. Obviously if not for the Everlys, there would have been a very different-sounding Beatles. In fact, the second Beatles' 45, "Please Please Me," was based on the Everlys' "Cathy's Clown." Also important, the Everly Brothers were writing their OWN songs before it became the Lennon/McCartney and legitimizing rock band thing to do. They were innovating AND inspiring.
When I was a kid I was obsessed with the Everlys. I might'a learned about immediacy and rawness of ROCK and ROLL via Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Larry Williams and Elvis, but I learned complexity, emotion, and restraint all from the Everlys. They were able to draw out emotions in me, as an excitable kindergartener, which was "adult" real. I didn't have a date in K-5, BUT I could FEEL the pain and heartbreak when hearing the Everlys sing about heartbreak. It wasn't so much the words they sung, but the way their singing conveyed emotion through melody and harmony. When I listen to 'em now those feelings are still there, it hasn't aged out; the purity was timeless and I think for a giant like Phil Everly it was effortless.
The last few days have been rough ones for great jazz flautists. On Dec. 21, Swedish fusion master Björn J:son Lindh succumbed to a brain tumor. He was 69. On Dec. 23, Detroit-born multi-instrumentalist legend Yusef Lateef passed away at age 93 after a struggle with prostate cancer. Jeremy Steig should be very concerned right about now.
Lindh cut some sizzling fusion albums for Metronome (a subsidiary of esteemed CTI label) in the ’70s, including Sissel, Cous Cous, Ramadan, and Boogie Woogie. His 1975 full-length for JAS Records, Second Carneval, is also highly recommended. Lindh was a robust yet nimble player, adept at both florid melodies and funky, staccato accents. The title track of his 1973 LP, Sissel, is perhaps the closest Swedes have come to replicating the truculent, turbulent fusion of Miles Davis’ On the Corner. Bonus to hiphop producers: His records abound with sample-worthy passages.
I’ve not heard nearly enough of Lateef’s music to make any definitive statements about it, but what I have experienced has been mostly sublime. I can wholeheartedly advocate The Gentle Giant, Hush ’N’ Thunder, The Doctor Is In… and Out, and Autophysiopsychic. On The Gentle Giant, Lateef turned in one of the greatest renditions of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” (and there’ve been hundreds), taking it from barely audible chamber prog to a rousing, gospelized coda with a heart-attack-inducing abrupt ending. Also on Gentle Giant is perhaps the sexiest song in the jazz canon, “Nubian Lady,” about which I wrote here. Go anywhere in Lateef’s catalog and you’ll hear so much spirituality, beauty, and finesse. He even pulled off a ridiculous disco track (“Robot Man”), back when it was the law for everyone in the music industry to do such a thing. Partially indebted to the blues, Lateef’s music also edged into Asian, Middle Eastern, and African styles. He even won a Grammy in the New Age category with 1987’s Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony—although he reportedly didn’t know what New Age music was.
The estimable DJ Frane called Lateef, “One of the greatest wind players to ever blow messages through the air,” and there are several musicians and critics who will back him up on that statement. RIP, Yusef Lateef and Björn J:son Lindh.
For more info on Lateef, read the New York Times' obit.
Last week, we lost a real one—Seattle hiphop artist Jesse "Byrdie" Watson succumbed to complications from a long bout of cancer. If you were checking out what was shaking and baking in the Seattle scene in the early 2000s, there was no missing Pretty Byrdie, a big brother with a smile and a heart to match. Byrdie came into prominence via the Street Level Records group Full Time Soldiers. FTS and SLR's brand of g-rap, including acts that hailed from the Soufend to the North End, sold out of local shops and kept mail orders ringing throughout the country—they were unquestionably some of the most popular local product in the late 1990s to early 2000s, and Byrdie was probably the most popular voice among them.
He broke out on his own with 2001's Poetic Epidemic, which featured everybody from his SLR comrades to Source of Labor's Wordsayer. Byrdie's "Player's Policy Pt. 2" was one of the first local cuts I knew of that got regular rotation on KUBE—at the time, and probably now, this was a big deal. (The other ones I remember: Mobb Tyght Hustlers' "Let's Get Toasted" and Unexpected Arrival's "Take Control (Remix)," which featured Byrdie.)
Uncompromising Polish experimental/noise composer Zbigniew Karkowski passed away yesterday due to pancreatic cancer. He was 55.
A student of Iannis Xenakis, Pierre Boulez, and Olivier Messiaen, among others, Karkowski constructed forbidding edifices of jagged, abrasive sounds that seem to both rivet and repel simultaneously. Far from monolithic, his pieces fluxed with often unpredictable violence, but could also contain passages of unsettling calm and grotesque beauty. In addition to his noise output, Karkowski composed acoustic and electroacoustic works and created pieces for chamber ensembles and large orchestras. He was also a member of Sensorband with Edwin van der Heide and Atau Tanaka.
Karkowski's passing, along with that of his contemporary, Aube (with whom Karkowski collaborated), in September, has made the last quarter of 2013 a sad time for fans of adventurous noise artists. RIP, Zbigniew Karkowski.
Hyper-prolific Japanese experimental/noise musician Aube (aka Akifumi Nakajima) passed away Sept. 25, it was learned recently. The cause of death has yet to be reported. He was born in 1959.
The Aube releases I’ve heard—which constitutes probably five percent of what he’s issued—stand out for their unusual and extreme tonalities, often derived from unexpected sources (e.g., the Bible for Pages From the Book, heartbeats for Cardiac Strain) and then radically manipulated in the studio. My favorite Aube work, Sensorial Inducement, plays from the center of the record outward and sounds like a frenzied debate among Venusian crickets, a Theremin being played by an octopus underwater, and your brain processing some very unnerving stimuli.
Eric Lanzillotta—local experimental musician/owner of Anomalous Records/ex-proprietor of Dissonant Plane record store—was friends with Akifumi. Below he shares some thoughts about his life and music as well as a track that the two recorded live in Japan in 2004. RIP, Akifumi Nakajima.
I have gotten the sad news that my old friend Akifumi Nakajima passed away in September. It seems the news is only just creeping out and took a while to reach everyone outside of Japan. Nakajima was probably best known for his work under the name Aube, which was one of the more prolific, and for me most interesting, noise acts from Japan in the 1990s. He had an impeccable sense of design and appreciation for the materials, taking packaging beyond just using regular old paper. His label G.R.O.S.S. presented an impressive selection of international artists and was an important part of the Anomalous Records catalog. I could really go on and on about his achievements and biography, but I think it is well documented online.
I would just like to add that I always appreciated his support and friendship, and greatly respected his honestly and commitment to quality. In 2004, I spent two weeks in Japan. Eight of those days were in Kyoto and I saw Akifumi almost every day. Seeing the temples and shrines, as well as record stores I would have never found on my own, with him gave the city much more depth than I would have found there on my own. It is heartening to know that he has left a vast recorded legacy for people to appreciate, but sad to lose such a good soul.
In memory of him, I want to share the recording of our one live performance together. This is a little different than the noise music some may associate with him, and I suppose points forward towards the analog electronic revival that started to appear not long after this concert.
Unfortunately, this also comes in a wave of other deaths in the experimental community as albrecht/D., Bernard Parmegiani and Sten Hanson have also left this world. All three had long and productive careers. These are just more reasons to appreciate those that are still with us!
De Jamaica Observer heeft het overlijden gemeld van reggae-artiest, Junior Murvin. De zanger is op 2 december heengegaan in het Port Antonio Hospital in Portland. Blijkbaar zat hij al in een vergevorderd stadium van diabetes dat tot zijn dood leidde.
Hij was het best gekend voor zijn single Police And Thieves, die te horen was op het gelijknamig debuutalbum uit 1977. Later dat jaar verscheen het ook als cover op de debuutplaat van The Clash, die zijn nummer wereldwijd bekend maakten.
This weekend we lost a real one. Seattle hiphop artist Jesse "Byrdie" Watson succumbed to complications from a long bout of cancer. If you were checking out what was shaking and baking in the Seattle scene in the early 2000s, there was no missing Pretty Byrdie, a big brother with a smile and a heart to match. Byrdie came into prominence via the Street Level Records group Full Time Soldiers; FTS and SLR's brand of g-rap, including acts that hailed from the Soufend to the North End, sold out of local shops and kept mail orders ringing throughout the country—they were unquestionably some of the most popular local product in the late '90s to early 2000s, and Byrdie was probably the most popular voice among them.
He broke out on his own with 2000's Poetic Epidemic, which featured everybody from his northend FTS comrades to Source of Labor's Wordsayer. Byrdie's "Player's Policy Pt.2" was one of the first local cuts I knew of that got regular rotation on KUBE93—this was a big deal, just listen to astonishment of the hosts of KUBE's old Sunday night show 'Future Flavors' before they play it. (The other ones I remember: Mobb Tyght Hustlers' "Let's Get Toasted" and Unexpected Arrival's "Take Control (Remix)", which featured Byrdie.)
All this feels like fucking ages ago—I know it wasn't, but just listen to the intro of "Dirty Politics," where he spat:
Man I'm so sick and tired of these rappers in Seattle, these so-called emcees. Everybody wants to be divided! There is no rap scene in Seattle! There is no hiphop community! I built a bridge but y'all built it down.
At the time, nobody I knew would've argued with this. I shouldn't have to tell you, this is about 10 country miles from where we are today.
A couple years later, Byrdie would release his N Flight album, his most polished work yet, and that radio love just increased, and he was on big stages rocking. I remember the joint video release party for his "B.Y.R.D.I.E." and the Blue Scholars' first video ("Freewheelin") at the old Vera in 2004.
Look, a lot of people I know are fucked up over this one. We'll miss you, Byrd. I know your spirit is in flight.
Innovative French electroacoustic composer Bernard Parmegiani passed away earlier today at age 86. The cause of death is still unknown. A favorite of Autechre (who turned me on to Parmegiani via an interview) and many other advanced electronic musicians, Parmegiani created incredibly detailed soundworlds that could swell to cosmic dimensions or contract to microscopic ones with equally fascinating results. His is the epitome of headphone music (high-quality cans, please), as you don’t want to miss a single infinitesimal detail of Parmegiani’s continuously evolving, ultra-refined, and unpredictable compositions.
Not that I’m an absolute authority on the topic, but in the pantheon of 20th-century composers, I would rank Parmegiani up there with Iannis Xenakis, Pierre Henry, Terry Riley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and György Ligeti for his ability to forge unique, psychedelic sonic vocabularies.
Reader Davey Schmitt-Schrenker has brought to my attention this perceptive passage from Roger Sutherland's chapter on Parmegiani in New Perspectives in Music that sums up the great man's importance:
Parmegiani is possibly the most important figure to have emerged from the Parisian school of electroacoustic composers. Arguably, he has done more than any post-war composer to establish electronic music as a self-sufficient medium capable of an almost symphonic breadth of expression. The music resembles a flight over an acoustic terrain; seen as if from an immense height, the various strata surface one after another and finally become fused and inseparable - perhaps an apocalyptic requiem for a race of beings who perished in some cosmic disaster. These cataclysmic episodes evolve with such gradualness as to catch the listener utterly by surprise - an effect which Xenakis has likened to the onset of madness. The surreal aural impressions created by Parmegiani's music linger disquietingly in the imagination and subtly alter our perceptions of everyday reality.
Editions Mego’s Recollection GRM subsidiary has reissued two essential Parmegiani albums in the last year: De Natura Sonorum and L'Œil écoute / Dedans-Dehors. You can check out several Parmegiani works that have been digitized at Ubuweb. RIP, Bernard Parmegiani.
Just heard about this bad news today: Renowned fashion model Barbara Cheeseborough, whose animated visage graces the cover of one of the greatest albums of all time, Funkadelic's Maggot Brain, passed away Oct. 24 of colon cancer. She was 67. You can read more about Cheeseborough in this tribute here. RIP, funk icon Barbara Cheeseborough.
The SF Gate:
The family of DJ Cheb I Sabbah announced on his website Thursday that the beloved San Francisco-based musician and composer died Wednesday at his home. He was 66.
Cheb I Sabbah was born Haim Serge El Baz in what is now Algeria in 1947 and moved to Paris in the 60′s where he launched his career as a DJ, specializing in American soul records.
He moved to San Francisco in 1984 and five years later began using the name Cheb I Sabbah. He was a master of world music, incorporating Arabic, Asian and African folk sounds into his rich compositions.
Shri Durga is where East meets West. East being India and its traditional form of music, raga, and West being reggae or dub science. Though reggae is usually categorized as Third World music, here its familiarity makes it Western, and raga's strange strings, talking drums, and throaty vocals make it Eastern. To enjoy this CD properly, you must imagine the slow and deep reggae groove as a kind of long street in a Western city and that on either side of it markets, temples, cafes, and community centers have been settled and decorated by a foreign culture. The architect and designer of this particular experiment in urban globalization is dj CHEB i SABBAH, whose Western musicians (Bill Laswell and Kevin "Broun Fellini" Carnes on bass and drums) pave the way for the ornamental vocals of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, Mala Ganguly, and Scheherazade Stone. This is not the first such experiment; we have heard many attempts to electrify or update some old, traditional art with electronica or dub, but Shri Durga is one of the most rewarding and seamless efforts yet. It is as if dub and raga were born and elaborated upon in the same brain for thousands of years, thousands of nights.
Most might already know that I'm a diehard Slayer fan. **I LOVE THEM** Forever. And ever! No. Matter. What. Even Tom Araya's admission of a belief in G-O-D (thanks, Trent Moorman!) doesn't really surprise me all that much.
This banner at their WaMu Theater show last Friday seemed a little weird though. I mean, wasn't there a evil-cool (with upside down crosses!) portrait of Jeff Hanneman they could have dedicated to him? He died of liver failure. And maybe I've been living in this land of the PC Police too long, but putting his name inside a beer bottle label seems a little "OUCH?" Yes? No? Let's have a vote! Also, more photos from the show, after the jump...
Last night on KBCS, Chris Martin—Kinski guitarist and host of the great, long-running radio show Ampbuzz—dedicated his show to the late Lou Reed. You can check it out here and peruse the tracklist after the jump.
Finally, Kinski play at Neumos tonight, opening for Terakaft.
All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122