And for all intents and purposes, that might as well be this entire blog post done with.
Music is effectively banned in North Korea. That is to say, unless it expressly praises the great leader and talks about how absolutely awesome communism is, it doesn’t get played. At all. On the one hand, it’s terrifying to think that there is actually a country on Earth that gives itself over to the nightmarish visions of George Orwell and Yevgeny Zamyatin. On the other, some of the propaganda music citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are forced to listen to is pretty awesome. It’s difficult to listen to this and not imagine you’re leading an army into battle, isn’t it?
To look for anything beyond that in terms of popular music is a waste of time, quite frankly. Any music with any sort of freedom of expression is either so heavily oppressed that it will never be found by Westerners, or is made by artists who have long relocated to Japan or South Korea, and perhaps cannot really be seen as North Korean any more. This also applied to all the artists that existed in Korea before it split in half – all of them became South Korean, almost by osmosis. Unfortunately, the culture of strict hegemony is the only culture, and somehow, anything that breaks from that isn’t really a part of the original culture any more. For more North Korean music of note, then,…
As I walked across the ruins of the What Stage early Sunday afternoon, I had no envy for the cleanup crew of Bonnaroo. Bottles of water, beer, and god knows what else lay scattered across the immense area, trampled upon, despite Bonnaroo’s valiant efforts to get the concertgoers to take care of their own waste. I never remembered, in 2009 or 2010, seeing so much waste anywhere in Bonnaroo the day after a big show. Even the Flaming Lips confetti extravaganza seemed much less of a shock. Perhaps Bonnaroo was trying to send a message to the 80,000 strong who seemed to care very little about the sustainability portions of Bonnaroo. The sight was frightening.
Equally dirty, grimy, but in a very different way wonderful was the first set I saw at the Sunday portion of Bonnaroo, Japandroids. Perhaps it is a curse I have, but I only manage to see the second half of any Japandroids set. My day started later than I anticipated, so I got there a half hour late. A similar thing happened to me a few months ago at South by Southwest, when I found myself wandering Austin looking for the venue. I showed up in time for “Heart Sweats”, and saw most of the end of their breakthrough album Post-Nothing. Thrown into that set, however, was a surprise performance of “Darkness at the Edge of Gastown” from their compilation of old EPs, No Singles. With a stronger, fuller…
So far I’ve only received one entry, so I figured I’d get the word out to more people.
Write something about music, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and if it’s good I’ll put it up on the staff blog. Deadline is July 1st and if I don’t get anything else by then, then I guess I’m a huge failure and this was a terrible idea. Bye!
It’s one of the more overlooked international rivalries in football, but Slovakians must have been absolutely delighted with the way the European qualifying went for this World Cup. Ever since Czechoslovakia split into two nations, the newly-formed Czech Republic have left their new neighbours in the dust in footballing terms – in fact, they were the defeated finalists in their first ever major tournament, in 1996. Yet, in 2010, it was Slovakia themselves, with a little bit of help from Slovenia, that stopped the Czechs from appearing. The two countries remain closely related collaborators in political terms, but regardless, it must have been sweet. In a group that kicked off with two draws and thus remains wide open, they may yet do even better, even if their star player is terrified of his own tattoos.
He also looks a little bit like the chestburster from Alien. Just saying.
Slovakia’s most common contributions to the record collections of music obsessives in America have tended to be progressive rock acts of various description, and while special mention should be given to the jazz fusion of Fermáta, the name that crops up more than any other is Marián Varga. As a solo artist, in collaboration with Pavol Hammel, and as a member of Prúdy and Collegium Musicum, his is a legacy that reverberates throughout Slovakia’s prog rock and art rock movements. Here’s Collegium Musicum, a band whose catalogue is largely built on instrumental rock arrangements of classical pieces, wih a spot of…
After a long, exhausting, and unbeatable Friday at Bonnaroo, Saturday paled in comparison. Even before attending, it was clear that Saturday had the weakest lineup of any of the days, and this held true when the day finally came. Seeing nothing enticing on the lineup until 3:30 PM with Isis, I showed up at 12:30 PM to get in line to see Conan O’Brien. Unfortunately, due to a poorly communicated (read: not communicated at all) ticket system made me get in the stand-by line, only to see them let about fifty people in, and I get fifteen people from the front of the line. So, unable to see O’Brien, I had two and a half hours to kill before seeing Isis.
I spent most of my time at the Troo Music Lounge, a small stage for lesser known groups, mostly because of the misting fans, seats, and shaded areas. While I was there, I heard the last song of Elmwood, a jam band that offered nothing new to the palette in terms of sound and structure, but their solos were some of the most proficient, impressive jam band solos I’ve heard. The drummer only had a few tricks up his sleeve, mainly Danny Carey-inspired tom fills, but the bassist, guitarist, and saxophonist all turned in long, impressive solos that kept the audience interested despite their length. Following them was Truth and Salvage Co., a fairly boring country band that started promising with great vocal harmonies, but hardly progressed from there.…
I would imagine that of the few of you following this blog intently, most will have been looking forward to this entry more than any other. There is a serious fascination in the Western world when it comes to Japan, to the point where it borders on fetishism – we even have specific derogatory terms for people who are obsessed with anything and everything Japanese. Music may not quite command the same fanbase that anime does, or computer games do, but you still don’t need to look very far to find an excited fan of Dir en Grey, or Mad Capsule Markets, or Nobuo Uematsu.
Oh yeah, here’s a footballer too.
Japan’s national character suffered a little when Western music crossed the Pacific and took over, which is a real shame; the nation’s folk and classical forms are documented as well as in any country in the world. Clearly nothing I can type into such a short space will sum all of that up, so we’ll focus on just one such form; gagaku, which is perhaps best understood as an equivalent of sorts to European chamber music, traditionally played by small-ish ensembles for the rich and royal in private performaces. It went on to be a big influence on avant-garde Western classical music, informing the drones, the microtonality, the primitivism, and even the electronic textures that permeates the works of composers as famous as LaMonte Young, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Krzysztof Penderecki.
The National stood on the Which Stage with foreshadowing of The Flaming Lips’ fluorescent orange set standing like a monolith behind them, a constant reminder that The National wasn’t the only reason I came to Bonnaroo, wasn’t the only reason why the thousands standing and listening to them kill their set found their way to little Manchester, Tennessee. The mud on my shoes. The dryness in my throat. The aching of my feet. Everything hinted that after the final melodies–no, primal screams–of “Terrible Love”, I would simply move onto the next show, as if that ninety minute set did not quench my thirst for great live music. And perhaps the biggest compliment I can give to The National’s incredible set is that, despite all of these hints at two and a half more days of Bonnaroo, I never once thought about what came before and after them. I simply remained transfixed by what took place on that stage (and, in the more incredible moments, in the crowd when Matt Berninger turned the show into what a friend of mine brilliantly termed “a punk show with wine”).
Yet, the biggest compliment I can give Bonnaroo 2010 is that despite the transcendent set of The National late Friday afternoon, Friday would get even better. Friday was easily the longest, most grueling day of Bonnaroo, seeing a total of eight different groups from 12 PM to 2 AM. Not to mention the 100°F heat index destroying the crowd for most of the afternoon.…
J’ADORE MEXIQUE! But we won’t talk about them much for now; I’m saving the teams who’ll stay in the competition for later, and Mexico certainly look like being one of those teams, at the expense of France. (Couldn’t happen to a nicer country, honestly.) So instead my attention -as well as the attention of the rest of England – turns to France’s best buddies in the World Cup, Algeria. The ties between the two countries are so strong that it’d been said that there was more celebration in Paris over Algeria’s qualificaton for the tournament than there was for France’s, although the utterly shameful way Les Bleus won their play-off may have someting to do with that. Still, maybe the French feel they owe Algeria a little something – the greatest French footballer of all time was actually an Algerian, of course.
Algeria’s musical scene retains those historical ties to France, and Gallic forms of music have always remained popular in the country. Chanson – perhaps the music most associated with the country – is a case in point, and to show that off, here’s Etienne Daho. A truly cosmopolitan artist (born in Algeria, lived and worked in France, now living in London, with a polylingual catalogue), his chanson vocals and melodies find themselves in all sorts of alien contexts, with his synth-heavy production reflecting the influence of both late ’80s sophistipop and the artier end of ’90s European dance music.
Manchester, Tennessee is one of the most unlikely places for a major music festival. It could hardly be called a suburb of Nashville, more than sixty miles outside the city, and has very little to offer to a huge influx of people. Most of all, the town of Manchester is a conservative place (drive around reading the church signs for proof), and hardly seems to accommodate the most liberal music festival in America that spends as much time promoting sustainability as it does music. Yet, the festival goes on, and Manchester seems to eat it up more and more each year.
The 80,000 that multiply the population of Manchester, Tennessee by eight for four days descended upon the isolated farm slowly on Thursday, as an inconvenient, inefficient will call line miles away from the festival, plus a reportedly day-long traffic jam caused massive delays. Through various means, I managed to get to the farm at about noon, four hours before any of the music began, and established my bearings in Centeroo, the area where the main attractions of the festival took place. The festival consists of five main music areas, broken into two stages (What Stage and Which Stage) and three tents (This Tent, That Tent, and The Other Tent), and assorted other stages such as the Troo Music Lounge, where lower-profile groups would play, and the Sonic Stage, where groups would perform short, stripped-down sets.
As the World Cup moves into the second round, it’s going to be interesting to see which of the over-performing minnows will continue to impress. Hosts South Africa have already fluffed their audition, finding themselves on the end of a 3-0 spanking by Uruguay, but it remains to be seen how teams like North Korea will hold up. Greece – champions of Europe as recently as 2004, let’s not forget – will be a special case indeed, because right now, they hold the record as the only team ever to play in the World Cup without scoring a single goal. It’s a deeply unwelome record, of course – it remains to be seen whether they will break that duck against Nigeria today or – welp – Argentina next week.
Don’t worry, it’s not actually Chris de Burgh.
The wunderkind of Greek music is unquestionably Vangelis. For all the movie-score cheese he’s been guilty of (look me in the eye and honestly tell me the theme from “Chariots of Fire” doesn’t make you cringe), he deserves to be regarded alongside Jean Michele-Jarre as one of the lynchpins of a very early form of adult-friendly electronica, and a progenitor of much of the new age and ambient music since. As you probably already know, his crowning achievement is his score for the sci-fi-film-noir epic Blade Runner.
To pick up on Vangelis is a stunning obvious move, though, so let’s look elsewhere….
Ok, so who kidnapped Tera Melos? Not too long ago, the ever-rambunctious group release their debut album, which was filled with spastic riffs and wavering time signatures. Since then, their progression had been somewhat obvious, or at least not a complete transformation, like the one that you are about to hear. Perhaps they were influence by Idioms Vol. I in the sense that they enjoyed playing tracks that have defined structures and hooks. At any rate, in the coming months (September 7th to be exact), Tera Melos will release Patagonian Rats, and if “Frozen Zoo” is any indication of what is to come, Patagonian Rats will be a sonic-pop experience that will certainly show how far Tera Melos can push their experimental rock boundaries.
Recently I found myself attending a Defiance, Ohio and Mischief Brew show, whom are two rising underground folk-punk bands. Their following is small, yet loyal, and shows are intense, intimate, and certainly passionate. While Defiance, Ohio’s new album Midwestern Minutes does not officially drop until July 6th, they were kind enough to sell copies while touring. Here is the opening track from Midwestern Minutes, “Floodwaters.”
Well, I’m sure we all expected a few countries to get absolutely pounded this year, but by and large – New Zealand, Korea DPR, South Africa – they’ve stood up very, very well for themselves. Attention turned today to Switzlerand, who are actually pretty good, but they’re playing Spain, and Spain are to the average football team what the atomic bomb is to the average handgun. At least, that was the general idea – but Switzlerand only turned around and bloody won, didn’t they? So thanks to the land of cuckoo clocks, Toblerone, and political neutrality for providing us with the defining moment of the World Cup so far.
And what immaculate hair they have too!
It’s Sputnik and it’s Switzerland, so it’s pointless even pretending like I’m going to start anywhere else but with the metal giants of Celtic Frost, Samael, and Coroner. Surely you don’t need me to tell you why a cold European country has got lots of metal, and surely you don’t need me to introduce Celtic Frost, do you? The country’s reputation for metal lives on through Paysage d’Hiver and Darkspace, but these guys are the daddies. They’re Celtic Fucking Frost, you get me?
Similarly dark-minded Swiss music can be found in their once-revered post-punk scene, most notably in the shape of The Young Gods. Part of a lineage that includes Swans (who they are named after) and branches out toward Nine Inch Nails, Devin Townsend, and Fantamos,…
As part of our blanket coverage of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa (see Nick Butler’s excellent World Cup Sounds series exploring the native musics of the competing countries), we will be rolling out a new vuvuzela-themed design later this week.
We’re still ironing out the various kinks in the new design, but feel free to browse the Beta version in the meantime and let us know your thoughts.
When New Zealand qualified for the World Cup, I distinctly remember some very proud, vocal gloating from Australians who were looking forward to seeing them getting beaten 4-0 every game. Out of interest, how are the Socceroos getting on with that so far? And how did New Zealand do earlier today? Having said that, there’s no denying that New Zealand are largely attending just to make up the numbers; if they qualify from their group ahead of Italy or Paraguay it will be a shock of the highest order. It’s lucky for me that they’ve qualified, though – partly because they have some pretty great music going on, but mostly because I can now take my one and only opportunity to post a Middlesbrough player.
Look! It’s Chris Killen! And some other guy!
New Zealand’s prime musical export has been indie pop, in various incarnations – Split Enz being the most famous (singer Neil Flynn went on to form Crowded House with some Aussies, the traitor), and The Clean the most influential (as Pavement and Yo La Tengo will only be too happy to tell you). The Chills are probably the pick of the bunch though; certainly, they recorded possibly the greatest single by any NZ indie band in the form of “Pink Frost”, a shoegazey standard with just a hint of peak-era Sonic Youth about it. I’ve never been that keen on the intro, but from the 25 second mark onwards it’s glorious.…