Subject: Re: It's that time...
In-reply-to: Your message of "Wed, 03 Nov 1999 20:17:17 CST."
Date: Wed, 03 Nov 1999 23:19:01 CST
From: Josh Kortbein 
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"Jon Stewart" writes:
>The long-suffering Richard Thompson has released a new album, _Mock Tudor_.
>I'm listening to it right now. If you like Richard Thompson, well, you know
>what to expect: British accent, good acoustic guitar work, anger and
>regret. I suppose it owes a lot to the folk genre, but if it's folk, it's
>folk with an edge.

I'm still on the lookout for _I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight_
and _Shoot Out the Lights_, before which I don't plan to buy any Dick n

>This summer I heard an artist by the name of April March on The World Cafe,
>a show produced at U.Penn and carried by KUNI. After exchanging some email
>with the radio station, I tracked down some info about Mme. March. Although
>she often sings in French, she's American and was an animator for The Ren
>and Stimpy Show (she also did the photography for Yo La Tengo's first
>album, I believe). For those looking for info on AMG, her real name is
>Elinor Blake. Reviews of her album _Chrominance Decoder_ are alternatively
>good and not-so-good, especially not-so-good if they rag on her French.
>Fortunately, she's much better at French than I am, nor am I a music
>critic. All I know is that it's fun cheesy French music with some old
>lounge in there and that it's cool to listen to a chick sing in French. The
>music was not too cheesy, not at all, to be annoying, though. So I'll be
>putting this album on my list.

I don't know how good she is at that sort of thing, but this sounds
vaguely similar to Stereolab, who I think are cool. Their newest album,
_Cobra Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night_ (or something like
that), is nice but I still think _Emperor Tomato Ketchup_ or _Dots and
Loops_ are better introductions to the groop. Many Stereolab fans
disagree with me in liking _Dots and Loops_, saying it's "too cold and
calculated." I'm not quite sure what they mean.

I say they're similar to April March because they're big on drones,
retro (analog) synthesizers and organs, lounge, jazz, krautrock,
have mixed French and English lyrics (lots of socialist rhetoric, but
you can barely distinguish the French from English most of the time).

I'm pretty sure Joel would hate Stereolab, initially.

>I also bought Galactic's CD of last year, _Crazyhorse Mongoose_, this
>summer. Predictably, you can now hear some of it on commercials. They're a
>group out of Nawlens that play fun, infectious 90s funk -- it's not really
>anything like James Brown. Emphasis is on the instrumentals, but there are
>vocals on about half the songs. It's 100% angst free, making it a good
>morning or afternoon album, not especially tolerable after midnight when
>you're winding down.
>I also heard Beth Orton's main album this past weekend. It was okay. As

I have _Trailer Park_, her next to last album [1997]. It's okay. I was
expecting something much more earth-shattering. Critics played up the
"trip-hop" influence on the album, meaning that it was supposed to sound vaguely
psychadelic with slowed-down hip-hop beats, except with folk thrown in,
or rather, the primary element. I was excited by this prospect since
I really enjoy the most prominent trip-hop artists, Massive Attack, Tricky,
and Portishead. I think the hip-hop in Orton's music is mostly incidental -
it's more similar to the plain old dumb beatboxes in lots of sensitive
girl-with-guitar folk and mainstream alt-rock. People labeled it differently
because Orton's from Bristol, I think, or at least nearby - same place
as the trip-hop greats. That, with the psychadelic elements and the
then-current popularity of trip-hop...

As far as trip-hop is concerned, I'm of the mind that you should hear these
great great CDs.

Massive Attack
	Blue Lines [1991]
	Protection [1994]
	Mezzanine [1998]
	Maxinquaye [1995]
	Pre-Millenium Tension [1996]
	Angels with Dirty Faces [1998]
	Juxtapose [1999]
	Dummy [1994]
	Portishead [1997]
	Live in NYC at Roseland Ballroom [1998]

Trip-hop sprung up around the beginning of the decade and tended to fuse
slowed-down hip-hop beats with... let's just say "other" elements from rock,
soul, jazz, electronic music... all over the place. If you've got an aversion
to rap, which you may well have, then don't let the hip-hop beats drive you
away - especially in slower form like this, I've come over time to find them
very satisfying in their own right. Certainly nothing like the dippy 2-4
(or variants) drumbox beat in some alternapop.

I like the second Massive Attack, _Protection_, the most out of all of these.
Of the others, it's hard to decide. I like to listen to more of _Juxtapose_
than Tricky's other CDs, but also enjoy _Maxinquaye_ and _PMT_. _Angels_
I've had trouble getting into; Tricky, over the course of his first three
albums, became deliberately more and more hard to like as a response to
his huge initial popularity. I love all three Portisheads, but it's hard to
decide which I love more. _Dummy_ is a more mellow listen than the s/t
if only because the s/t is darker. The live album is great and far rockier
than the other two.

The first Massive Attack samples a bassline from a Billy Cobham (drummer
for the Mahavishnu Orchestra) album, some stuff from a James Brown song,
and probably something from Isaac Hayes. These guys have all even sampled
from the same Isaac Hayes song at different times, I think. _Protection_
is more laidback than _Blue Lines_, though it is a slight distinction.
_Mezzanine_ is far more menacing than either of those, and its opening
track "Angel" has been on like 4 million soundtracks since its release
(including a brief minute or so during _Pi_). Its guitars and rock
influences are much louder, too.

Aside from a couple spots on Protection, Tricky left Massive Attack after
the first album; before that he was something of an associate member,
supplying raps. And by "raps" I don't mean anything like raps you've
probably heard before - hoarse, almost whispered patters is more like it.
His absence on the third album is noticeable, as it feels a little less
diverse. Each album also features two other MA members "rapping," female
vocals, and vocals from reggae singer Horace Andy. The female vocals
are first class on each.

The "raps" on all of the Massive Attack and Tricky albums have the interesting
property of being done by British people - very odd accent to hear in anything
vaguely rap-like.

There's also a "Mad Professor v. Massive Attack" remix album - dub remixes
of all but one track on _Protection_ - called _No Protection_. It's very
nice, but so far I feel that it lacks something because the vocals have almost
been eliminated. Massive Attack's vocals are one of their strengths.

Tricky's albums are much darker than Massive Attack's - I've heard his
version of trip-hop likened to hell, compared to MA's trip-hop heaven.
Consequently the soul influences on his music are played down; rap, reggae,
and funk (filtered so it's hard to tell that's what it was, long ago)
come to the forefront. The vocals on his first three are by Marina Topley-
Bird, some girl he met on the street (underage at the time!). The last one
has some other (not as good) female vocals, as Marina was busy caring for
the kid Tricky implanted in her. It's also much more obviously indebted to
rap, and it has a guest star from England who apparently does some sort
of reggae speed rap on his own time; the lead-off single "I Like the Girls,"
features this guy's insanely fast rapping about seeing some lesbians having

There's a vague Tom Waits influence on the first (maybe later ones?)
Tricky album, mostly in the wooden percussion and the recording of it.

Portishead are, to put it bluntly, much whiter than Massive Attack or
Tricky. Massive Attack, mostly on their first two albums, have a big "noir"
angle. Portishead are all about that, where MA merely employ it as a tool.
"Cinematic" has been applied especially aptly to Portishead's music.
Portishead have only female vocals, Beth Gibbons', and no rapping to
speak of. They're not as eclectic as their peers, but employ some light
sampling and (turntable) scratching, synthesizers, and guitar playing.
The guitar playing is omnipresent, where in MA and Tricky it's incidental
or sometimes absent. Adrian Utley (I think that's his name), the guitar
player, has a "spy music" sort of thing going on that's really quite
entertaining. For their first single, "Sour Times," they sampled part
of the "Mission Impossible" theme song, and that fits in perfectly with
their music, stylistically speaking.

So here's my trip-hop summary, I suppose. Only get some Tricky, for the
time being, if you'd like to challenge yourself. Prefer Massive Attack's
_Protection_ to the other two, but by all means listen to them too. Consume
Portishead in large quantities.

>well as a pretty kick ass album by Solace, an Irish folk instrumental group
>(and had tracks that were noticeably different from each other or from the
>shi'te they'll play on Celtic radio shows). Ani DiFranco is also releasing
>a new album within the next couple of weeks or so, as is Fiona Apple

Anna heard some new songs at the recent concert, and of course enjoyed them.

>(according to the Newsweek article _When the Pawn..._ is pretty good).

I've heard it's mostly more of the same. Her first album is very nice
as far as production and arrangement are concerned, and she sings quite
nicely, but her songs are blah.

>Since this email is already pretty folk heavy -- which is odd cuz I don't
>listen to folk, really -- I should also mention that Iowa City native Dave
>Moore has been getting some attention because of his first album in six
>years, _Breaking Down to 3_.

More on contemporary to semi-contemporary music I recommend heartily to
you (all simply things that I've listened to a lot lately):

Amon Tobin's _Permutation_ mixes drum-and-bass and jungle music with jazz
and Brazillian jazz and non-jazz. The first two genres are more popular as a
kind of electronic music built around the craziest drum fills - often from
old jazz records - you could think of, played almost _constantly_. Intense
stuff. This album is a standout because of its combination of these two
with the more standard jazz and Brazilian elements. A Pitchfork review
made this out to be the _Bitches Brew_ of the 90s, and while I don't think
that's right, the album sure is something. I've heard that his first,
_Bricolage_, is better, but haven't heard it for myself. [1998]

Mojave 3's _Out of Tune_ is dusky, warm, gently blissful. It recalls Dylan
ca. _Blonde on Blonde_ at times, except that the lyrics aren't at all
prominent in the same way, the singer can sing, and the music isn't as
raw. There are many guitars, both acoustic and electric, but they remain
subtle. Also some intermittent hammond organ, etc. I'm looking forward to
hearing this in the dead of winter, because as I walk across central campus
on warm afternoons, it seems to be a perfect album for the time between
the end of summer and beginning of fall, and I want to check it out
during colder times. [1999]

I am crazy about the new Burning Airlines album, _Mission: Control!_. It's
catchy punk/pop from some of the same people who were in Jawbox, who you've
probably also never heard of. The music is at the same time catchy and
innovative. I've been playing a lot of them on my radio show lately, not
that that helps you any. :) The "punk" here is derived from the Dischord
records/Fugazi axis, and is nothing if not precise and clean, so don't
negatively compare it to the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, Green Day, or
whatever. [1999]

I've lately discovered why people continue to care about Sonic Youth,
even when people rag on their newer work. _Daydream Nation_ [1988] is
a breathtaking album, and the hope that there might be more, someday,
lingers long. Simultaneously: it's artful, it rocks, it's avant-garde,
it's accessible.

Perhaps Joel can do me a favor in saying something about Firewater and
Neutral Milk Hotel. I think I've mentioned NMH here before; I stand by
my recommendation, if I've given one, and reaffirm it. Get _Get Off
the Cross... We Need the Wood for the Fire_ [1996] from Firewater, and
_In the Aeroplane Over the Sea_ [1998] from NMH.

If you'd like some hepper folk, try Will Oldham in his various incarnations.
Post-apopalyptic hillbilly music. _I See a Darkness_ [1999] was released
by "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy," and _Viva Last Blues_ [1995] was released by
"Palace Music." Oldham's folk is sparer than most, and more frightening.
Trivia note: Oldham played baby Jessica's dad in a TV movie about the
kid that fell down the well in Texas. Other albums are also good to

Low just released a Christmas album. :)

Brief mentions, all great:
	Mogwai, _Come On Die Young_
		Slint-influenced "post-rock," somber, breathtaking
	Red Stars Theory, _Life in a Bubble Can Be Beautiful_
		"emo"? related to the Mogwai/Kranky-label group of bands
	American Analog Set, _The Golden Band_
		"ambient pop," vaguely similar to Low but not slow
	Rachel's, _Selenography_
		a fusion of the indie-rock and chamber-music aesthetics
	Autechre, _tri repetae++_, _LP5_

As always, I could go on and on, but I'll stop here. Don't forget my last
round of recommendations, either; surely you haven't followed up on all
of those.

Let me know if I can describe any of these any more.

choosing LONG songs for the show tonight so he can work on the big,
second of two for the whole semester, algebra assignment

Most of my hunches concerning mathematics are pretty bad.
    - Jon
"I also find it's harder to spell words incorrectly if you
stick to small and/or vulgar words."