Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tha Alkaholiks - 21 & Over (1993)

Tha Alkaholiks, despite being a hip-hop group from the West Coast in the early 90s, have a lot more in common with EPMD & A Tribe Called Quest than the whiny, whiny, whiny, whiny synth tones of G-Funk. I've really been on the straight and narrow for several months, so I don't even know what these guys are talking about with all their "drinking lingo." That is ok though, because I think that we both like partying. I mean, I don't actually like partying or meeting people or anything like that, even though I occasionally like to try to convince myself that I do. What are you guys doing tonight I don't have work tomorrow.

Tha Lik's debut also accomplishes something appallingly uncommon in rap music: this record is concise and consistent. There aren't five hundred annoying skits. There aren't filler tracks. Ten bangers for your mouth. Who'd like a banger in the mouth?

So, there's more to my EPMD comparison than the Tyrone Thomas sample used for both "It's my Thing" and "Only When I'm Drunk." J-Ro and Tash (and sometimes E-Swift) trade bars in their verses much like Erick and Parrish were doing a few years before. And both groups rely on lazy flows, their laid-back delivery almost masking the extreme cleverness of their rhymes. Although, the patterns on 21 & Over remind me a lot of Phife Dawg...

OH YEAH! I bought this CD on tour and I was putting it out on the merch table as a "conversation piece" along with The Righteous Brothers and Moondog and whatever else I had accumulated. In Cleveland, this guy who was of course very drunk really wanted to buy it, and became incensed upon being informed that it was not for sale. His offers for the CD increased linearly with his drunkeness, and he got to the point of offering me $30. I told him that if he would give me $40 for the CD, I would give it to him. Not because I felt like I needed $40 for a Liks CD that I paid $6.99 for. Rather, a man willing to pay $40 for a used Liks CD really really likes the Liks, and would enjoy the CD much more than me. Unfortunately, he didn't like music that much. However, he did fall over several times in the moshing pit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guest Mix Vol. 1: Andy Nelson

I have a lot of friends involved in a lot of cool stuff with a lot of good opinions on music. As such, the new thing is that my friends will be doing guest mixes for my blog and everyone will thoroughly enjoy this new concept. For Volume One, I present the opinions of my multi-talented (music, jokes, drawings, etc.) roomie Mr. A. Nelson, who plays music in Like Rats & Weekend Nachos and records music at Bricktop Recording (for a very reasonable rate, I might add). So, take in Andy's mix and also visit the internet homepages related to his activities. Also, become excited about this new fun feature and look forward to it every few weeks. Here's ol' Nelly takin it over in his own words:

There are certain pressures I feel when commissioned to make a mix. These pressures are intensified when the mix is for a blog written by a dear friend whose taste in music I very much respect. An irritating self-consciousness sets in when I try to decide on what angle to come at in my song selection. I listen to plenty of music and I feel like my tastes are pretty diverse, but do I want this mix to be some sort of cross-section of my harddrive? Am I trying to impress Todd's loyal readers with a stunning blend of genres, obscurity and controversial mainstream gems? I could do that, but I already applied to the fuckyoucrew several years ago (and was denied). At this point, trying to give less and less of a fuck is a very real goal for me, so whatever, I'm making a mix that I'd enjoy listening to.

It's fucking chilly in the apartment and leaves are turning orange and yellow outside, so my scope has been narrowed to a fall theme. None of these songs have overt fall references (at least I don't think so), but every one of them has some aesthetic quality that I find particularly appropriate to listen to around this season. I guess a few of these songs might make me look like a bit of a sad bastard, but that comes with the territory when you pick and choose tracks in this context. This is my favorite time of year and there's a certain kind of dull melancholy that sort of feels right when things look the way they do outside. It's like nature's last, epic stand before another crushing Chicago winter sets in.

So pop this shit in on a long drive out to the pumpkin patch. Drink some cider and plan your Halloween costume. Wear a nice sweater and get some outdoors-time in before it's too fucking cold to do anything.


01 Chapterhouse - Breather
02 Danzig - Her Black Wings
03 The Chameleons - Monkeyland
04 Depeche Mode - Never Let Me Down Again
05 Mayhem - Life Eternal
06 Cocteau Twins - Evangeline
07 Brainiac - Nothing Ever Changes
08 The Cure - The Figurehead
09 Death In June - The Calling
10 Slowdive - When the Sun Hits
11 Hot Chip - And I Was A Boy From School
12 Burzum - Spell of Destruction
13 Bailter Space - Begin
14 The Stone Roses - I Wanna Be Adored
15 Iron Maiden - Hallowed Be Thy Name


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eric Dolphy - Fire Waltz (1961)

Eric Dolphy is one of my favorite jazz players, as he fluidly balanced the atonal avant-garde jazz of the 60s with the flying chordal improvisation of bop. He follows chords in fleeting flurries of notes that are sometimes quick, dissonant trills and other times smooth melodic arcs. This is one of the more delightful games of expectation vs. reality, as Dolphy clearly always knows exactly what he's doing. Where is his melody going next? There is a nice overall logic to how far out there and how regularly he travels before returning to his harmonic base.

On "Bee Waltz," which has a nice two part chord progression, Dolphy brings out the bass clarinet, and opens with a variety of bubbling dissonances before settling into a rapidfire melodic arc following the quick ii-V chord changes. Observing his choice of melody or dissonance over the two parts of the harmonic structure of the tune is fascinating. He tends to favor melody over the ii-V part for most of his solo, and settles between "free" wailing and modal gymnastics for the first part of the progression. Really really really stimulating, which is good for me since I crave stimulation.

Also, funny that this is called "Fire Waltz" as Dolphy's playing is, to me, quite airy, blue and wet. Sort of an elemental opposite, I guess (terrible, terrible cards btw). Uh, who wants to play Magic I still have some decks.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kraftwerk - Computer World (1981)

Back from tour my droogs! Lots of good shows, as music fans around the American East apparently love Weekend Nachos. Also, Brian has a fetish.

Anyway, I was listening to Kraftwerk in the van and Drew was like "Are you listening to the soundtrack for a children's learning video?" This was funny, but also Drew is a fool for not immediately recognizing Kraftwerk.

Kraftwerk is the perfect soundtrack for a detached, emotionless INTJ like myself, right? I live in a computer world, and it certainly is more fun to compute. Social interactions are a stream of data to me, and I read people like Excel tables. I am the next level in human evolution, as the emotions of the plebs were selected for by the statistical climate of the Pleistocene. This type of impulsive thinking is irrelevant and misleading in today's information-rich, black swan dominated megaculture. Good thing I am the operator with my pocket calculator.

There is a lot of space in these songs, which is wonderful for me, as an avowed fan of minimalism. Compositions are very melody-driven, albeit in a slightly quirky way. Each track has a clear theme, that, after being introduced, appears in a myriad of forms throughout. Variations on the melody as well as supplemental samples and counterpoints provide the impetus for forward motion, and the path is laid out by austere, reverb-laden percussion.

I'll use "Pocket Calculator" as my example, as the opening blips are some of the catchiest things ever laid to tape. Pay attention to the bass counterpoint to that melody, which keeps going through the verse after the melody cuts out and a vocal part fills the space. These tradeoffs continue until the string of variations at 2:38, which are eventually tied together by the reintroduction of the theme and the verse vocals. Relate these compositional styles to a Prince groove, or to a quickly morphing riff in a metal song.

Also notice how the opening segment of "Numbers" is just as bonkers as any of the techno, house, or hip-hop that would later rip Kraftwerk off. Swizz Beatz is a pussy, Ralf & Florian are hard.

*link removed*

Also: Once again, some of my writings on music have appeared in the newest issue of Jettison Quarterly (really cool web magazine). Enjoy the articles on Thax Douglas & city gardening in Chicago as well.