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March 2010 Archives

March 4, 2010

Crypto Artists: Oot & Aboot in March

Decompressing from Vancouver 2010 overload (a.k.a. "Vancouverload" ), our artists are tirelessly engaging in Olympic-sized roadwork.

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March 8, 2010

REST IN TEMPO: Requiem for a Happy Man

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Another grey, shitty day in Los Angeles, and The Beast is mourning the just-reported death of composer/bandleader Mark Linkous, who led the lo-fi surrealist rock band Sparklehorse from 1995 to, uh, Saturday, when he took his own life at age 47.

If anyone still refers to Downbeast as strictly a “jazz blog” then they haven’t been paying attention. Quoth the sage Greg Burk: “There are no styles anymore, only music.” Linkous himself was a musical omnivore who joined a distinguished line of hermetic, depressive indie “outsiders” (Jeff Magnum, Jeff Lytle, Vic Chestnut) who retreated Big Pink-style to the woods of rural America – in Linkous’ case, a farmhouse in Bremo Bluff, Virgnia – to make strange and decayed sounds with moss-dripped gothic lyrics. One can arguably draw a line of influence from Sparklehorse’s kreep-in-the-kudzu debut Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot to Radiohead’s Amnesiac and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

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Lately, isolation has been rather hep. Think Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon in his father’s hunting lodge in the musical mecca of Northern Wisconsin, or Owl City’s Adam Young in the basement of a 113-year-old farmhouse in Owatonna, Minnesota. Linkous’ own music reflected this glorious (and somewhat claustrophobic) solitude, conjuring up images of a yard full of paint-chipped hobby-horses, weathered farm machinery and mice-filled refrigerators overgrown with crabgrass, electrical cables running across a chicken-feathered dirt floor to a jerryrigged recording studio amongst rusted tools, ancient spiderwebs and the scent of wood rot. Linkous’ music sounded like blurry ham radio dispatches from such a place, especially on Sparklehorse’s 1998 masterpiece Good Morning Spider: “Pig” is a terrifying blast of Pixies-ish fury; “Painbirds” grows in intensity like a tumor (reflecting Linkous’ quasi-accidental death in 1996); “Sick of Goodbyes” is pure fun; “Happy Man,” especially the live version off the Distorted Ghost EP, is a jacked-up wonder of positivity (“all I want is to be your happy man!”) that made me cry when I listened to it – even though it’s an intense, upbeat rocker. And talk about that live EP: “Gasoline Horseys,” a duet with Sofie Michalitsianos recorded in Bristol, England, is so quiet and delicate it risks being blown away by a stiff breeze.

Linkous sang (and spoke) in kind of a strangled, tremulous creak – like Bobby Goldsboro trapped under a combine. I recall an awkward NPR interview with Linkous that was more silence than speaking: far from being a petulant hipster who was too cool for the room, the man seemed physically unable to even speak of his own music or what it meant. No matter. Good Morning Spider got this Humble Blogger out of one of the darkest and doom-laden periods of my life, when I became a virtual self-medicated, bathrobed hermit in my own apartment, afraid to leave and afraid to write, the floor threatening to open up beneath my feet. Even Linkous’ interesting fashion sense – he toured with the ‘horse wearing a glittering Vegas suit, welding goggles, and a ten-gallon cowboy hat – helped me in some strange way. (It inspired me to write a story, dedicated to Linkous, entitled “Big Neon Cowboy,” about a dustblown primitive awash in the digitized city.) I heard a testimonial at a funeral last summer where the speaker was recalling being depressed, and how having the deceased comfort her was both a blessing and a curse: “What do you do when the one who told you ‘everything will be okay’ is now gone?” Indeed.

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What really sucks, of course, is the announcement on March 3 that Linkous’ most famous project, Dark Night of the Soul, the troubled group project with filmmaker David Lynch and pathological collaborator DJ Danger Mouse, was finally slated to be released sometime this summer. Bummer.

One of the best descriptions of Linkous’ unique effect on the ears came from my friend R.J. Smith, “His songs sound like a secret transmission from the 1930s that bounced around the heaven’s for years before it was picked up by satellite. The songs sound remote, but they communicate as warmly and as richly as a natural-born artist sitting on his front porch, strumming and rocking.”

Mr. Linkous, cross the river and rest under the shade of the trees. Hope to meet you there someday.

Blood suckers hide beneath my bed
And black fumes of skin so gently bled
I slept with a cat on my breast
Slowing my heart stealing my breath
At sunrise the monkeys will fly
And leave me with pennies in my eyes.

-Sparklehorse, “Eyepennies” (2001)

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March 11, 2010

Jazz Bakery to Return?

Reportage from All About Jazz:

After nearly 20 years of bringing world class jazz to the Los Angeles area, the non-profit jewel of a music venue, the Jazz Bakery, had to close its doors at the end of May 2009. The inexorable forces of the real estate market had determined that another furniture store would displace this vital cultural institution.

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Ruth Price [photo via Peak]

But have no fear jazz lovers. The irrepressible, indomitable and indefatigable director of the Jazz Bakery, Ruth Price, has committed her considerable energy and skills to the Bakery's rebirth somewhere on L.A.'s Westside. In pursuit of this lofty goal, Ms. Price, over the last few months has held several successful fundraisers at different locations in the city. These events, part of the Bakery's Movable Feast series, have recently featured flute legend Hubert Laws and vocalist extraordinaire, Tierney Sutton, piano playin' wit and wordsmith, Mose Allison, and the inimitable saxophone master, Pharoah Sanders.

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This month's benefit performances include Japan's dynamic piano virtuoso, Hiromi, at the Japan America Theater this Thursday March 11th at 8pm. On Sunday March 14th, at Largo at the Coronet Theater, electric guitar wizard, Larry Coryell, will perform two shows, a matinee at 4pm and an 8pm evening performance. Finally, on March 27th, the Antonio Sanchez Quartet will perform 8pm and 9:30pm shows at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

Jazz lovers, come out and support the non-profit Jazz Bakery and help bring back affordable, world class jazz to Los Angeles.

Greg Burk's Live Picks of the Week (March 12-18)
Don Heckman's Live Picks of the Week (March 8-14)
Brick Wahl's Live Picks of the Week (March 11-17)
Los Angeles New Music Schedule (March 11-June 3)

March 19, 2010

Tribeology

Ah, those pholkes at Soul Jazz Records have done it again. Mere months after their fascinating (and long overdue) study of indie jazz cover art of the 1970s, they've re-released 2004's A Message from the Tribe, a lovingly restored anthology of the underground Detroit jazz-funk label Tribe Records. The specially-packaged box set contains early performances by trombone madman Phil Ranelin [pictured below] before he moved out to LA-LA Land and became an integral part of our local "scene" -- if one can call it that. We recommend seeking out Ranelin's Nixon-era lost classics like The Time is Now (1974) and Vibes from the Tribe (1976).

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Check out this review of the comp from Pitchfork Media's Mark Richardson below:

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March 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Shrimper

Be it Fabian or Pat Boone serving as a clean cut kid’s introduction to the real rock & roll music of Little Richard & Charlie Feathers, or ‘The Boss’ inadvertently turning young kids onto the fury of Suicide & Albert Ayler, it doesn’t really matter as long as the road winds though the same valleys & vistas and offers an exit to the less-trampled venues.
Dennis Callaci, The Village Idiot (1999)

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We at Crypto were elated/amazed when we hit the ten-year mark as an indie alt-jazz concern, but we must pause to give props to the abovequoted Mr. Callaci, who since 1990 has headed the mystically resilient lo-fi mail-order label Shrimper Records.

Callaci founded Shrimper (unrelated to the slang term for "toe-sucking," as well as another fetish so disgusting that decorum forbids mentioning it here) with his wife Catherine Guffey in the sleepy bedroom-community of Upland, California. Shrimper is a truly indie operation, from its home office (Jazz-Age, red-brick bungalow behind white picket fence) and recording "techniques" (Shrimper helped make tape hiss hip), mom 'n' pop distribution (starting with $3 cassette tapes dubbed one-by-one and mailed from a P.O. Box in San Berdoo), slackerish promotional attitude (press kit: Ralph's grocery sack stuffed with cassettes, CDs and vinyl--often with a handwritten note in Callaci's apologetic scrawl). Although the Shrimper came to encompass acts from Boston and The Netherlands, Shrimper’s specialty was freakish folk, mellow hip hop, noisy experimentation and bash-pop from the tract-home anomie of SoCal's "Inland Empire." No doubt this aesthetic influenced L.A. junkyard-music hermits like Beck and Ariel Pink.

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Dennis Callaci punches out Matt Damon

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