…..news letter #730 – alarm o’clock…..

A pretty light week here this week, but the powers that be have finally reissued the first few Bowie records. If you weren’t in yet this week, I put a fresh crate of used Jazz out, so come on down for a dig.

…..pick of the week…..


Venetian Snares: Traditional Synthesizer Music (Planet Mu) LP
Traditional Synthesizer Music is a collection of songs created and performed live exclusively on the modular synthesizer by Aaron Funk. Each sound contained within was created purely with the modular synthesizer. No overdubbing or editing techniques were utilized in the recordings on Traditional Synthesizer Music. Each song was approached from the ground up and dismantled upon the completion of it’s recording. The goal was to develop songs with interchangeable structures and sub structures, yet musically pleasing motifs. Many techniques were incorporated to “humanize” or vary the rhythmic results within these sub structures. An exercise in constructing surprises, patches interrupting each other to create unforeseen progressions. Multiple takes were recorded for each song resulting in vastly different versions of each piece.

File Under: Electronic, Synth, CanCon
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…..new arrivals…..


David Bowie: David Bowie AKA Space Oddity (RCA) LP
Originally titled David Bowie, then subsequently Man of Words, Man of Music, the album that became widely known as Space Oddity was reissued under that name again in 1972, peaking at #16 on Billboard’s Albums chart and #5 in the UK. Produced by Tony Visconti (except for the title track, produced by Gus Dudgeon), the album represents a giant leap forward in Bowie’s songwriting and is the first truly essential Bowie album. Equally notable for its collaborators, including session players Herbie Flowers, Tim Renwick, Terry Cox, and Rick Wakeman, Space Oddity pays homage to the influences of the then-burgeoning London artistic scene and delves into psychedelic folk-rock, and prog. Its genre-defying template created a blueprint of the musician who would become, over the next decade, one of the world’s most innovative and inimitable artists. “As was the case with Miles Davis in jazz, Bowie has come not just to represent his innovations but to symbolize modern rock as an idiom in which literacy, art, fashion, style, sexual exploration and social commentary can be rolled into one.” – Rolling Stone

File Under: Rock, Classics
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David Bowie: The Man Who Sold The World (RCA) LP
David Bowie’s first album of the 1970s, the Tony Visconti-produced The Man Who Sold the World represents the beginning of the landmark artist’s classic period. Mick Ronson’s guitars occupy hard-rock and psychedelic domains, and Bowie pursues a sound that’s simultaneously bizarre, fuzzed-out, and alien. Made more famous by Nirvana’s cover of the title track on MTV Unplugged in New York, The Man Who Sold the World goes much deeper than one song. The record points in the unpredictable, innovative directions Bowie would travel throughout the 1970s. In addition, the album’s cover, on which Bowie wears a dress, remains a landmark image and indicative of his bold refusal of hard-and-fast sexual identities. Bowie said of Nirvana’s cover: “I was simply blown away when I found that Kurt Cobain liked my work, and have always wanted to talk to him about his reasons for covering ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ and that it was a good straight forward rendition and sounded somehow very honest.”

File Under: Rock, Classics
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David Bowie: Hunky Dory (RCA) LP
David Bowie’s Hunky Dory still sounds as invigorating, fresh, and kaleidoscopic in scope as it did upon original release more than four decades ago. Built from a six-song demo he had used to entice RCA to sign him and featuring the timeless songs “Changes” and “Life on Mars,” Bowie’s first album recorded with producer Ken Scott finds the musical chameleon back in the role of singer/songwriter. He pays tribute to his influences with the postmodern pop songs “Andy Warhol,” “Song for Bob Dylan,” and the Velvet Underground inspired “Queen Bitch.” Almost immediately, Bowie followed the record up with the instant classic The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. “Hunky Dory gave me a fabulous groundswell,” Bowie told Uncut in 1999. “I guess it provided me, for the first time in my life, with an actual audience – I mean, people actually coming up to me and saying, ‘Good album, good songs.’ That hadn’t happened to me before. It was like, ‘Ah, I’m getting it, I’m finding my feet. I’m starting to communicate what I want to do.”

File Under: Rock, Classics
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David Bowie: Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (RCA) LP
“Wham Bam Thank You Ma’m!” David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars erased borders, eliminated stereotypes, broke open cultural possibilities, and spawned a legacy like no other. More than four decades after its release, the record remains one of the most electrifying and brilliant works ever released. Again available on 180g vinyl LP, it is here presented in freshly remastered sound that does justice to Bowie, Mick Ronson, and company’s creative genius. Ziggy Stardust is an album written by an aspirant rock star in the guise of a hugely successful one. This nifty deceit has led to it being dubbed the first post-modern pop record. Its songs obtusely referenced aspects of rock history, whilst at the same time tell a story of a future world of extraterrestrial intervention and space-age androgyny. Ziggy Stardust works so well because it’s a concept album with the ‘concept’ taken out. “We certainly didn’t go into it thinking that the entire album would be a concept album,” says producer Ken Scott. “It was a bunch of songs that worked together. Now yes, there is a story for a few of the tracks that hook them together, but, that’s it, a few of the tracks.” “I think the best thing I did was to leave him so open-ended,” Bowie rightly pointed out. “It wasn’t a specific story. There were specific incidences within the story, but it wasn’t as roundly written as a usual narrative is. The only trouble about copying someone who is really well known is that you know all the facts about them, so you can’t actually be that person. But, because Ziggy was kind of an empty vessel, you could put a lot of yourself into being your own version of him.” “Moonage Daydream” is simply stunning, the end-of-song solo by Mick Ronson, which dissolves into spacey, phased high strings, makes it, even more so than “Space Oddity,” the definitive space-rock Bowie anthem. “Star,” and, most importantly, “Hang On to Yourself” were precursors of punk rock. “Starman” is such a crafty steal from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that it was bound to be huge. The title track’s closing salvo, ‘Ziggy played guitar’ is so famous now that its three words could be Bowie’s tombstone epitaph.  “Suffragette City” became a Bowie classic: its powerhouse of a riff, booming ARP synthesizer, and “Wham Bam Thank You Ma’m!” are still ludicrously thrilling. “Soul Love” and “Lady Stardust” are beautiful little songs and surely two of Bowie’s most underrated. But it’s the astonishing opener and the killer of a closing number that take you into Bowie’s parallel universe. The scene of anarchy on the streets melded with a simple love story that is “Five Years” is surely one of Bowie’s greatest moments. Everything from the heartbeat drum figure which opens the song to the hysteria of the ending works perfectly. And “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” is as impassioned a performance as any on the record. So much of pop music would have been unthinkable, unimaginable, without this record. In pop, you’re always best remembered for your initial breakthrough. Bowie’s career trajectory through soul, electronica and avant-garde pop is perhaps, in part, an attempt to free himself from this stereotyping circa 1972.

File Under: Rock, Classics
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Matmos: Ultimate Care II (Thrill Jockey) LP
Ultimate Care II is the new album from renowned conceptual electronics duo Matmos (Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt). Recorded in the basement studio of their home in Baltimore, MD the album is constructed entirely out of the sounds generated by a Whirlpool Ultimate Care II model washing machine. Like its namesake, the album runs across its variations as a single, continuous thirty eight minute experience that starts with the grinding turn of the wash size selection wheel, and ends with the alert noise that signals that the wash is done. Between these audio-verité book-ends, we experience an exploded view of the machine, hearing it in normal operation, but also as an object being rubbed and stroked and drummed upon and prodded and sampled and sequenced and processed by the duo, with some occasional extra help from an ultra-local crew of guest stars (some of whom regularly do laundry chez Matmos). Dan Deacon, Max Eilbacher (Horse Lords), Sam Haberman (Horse Lords), Jason Willett (Half Japanese), and Duncan Moore (Needle Gun) all took part, either playing the machine like a drum, processing its audio, or sending MIDI data to the duo’s samplers. The vocabulary of the Ultimate Care II, its rhythmic chugs, spin cycle drones, rinse cycle splashes, metallic clanks and electronic beeps are parsed into an eclectic syntax of diverse musical genres. The result is a suite of rhythmic, melodic and drone-based compositions that morph dramatically, but remain fanatically centered upon their single, original sound source. Like their promiscuous DJ sets, the palette of genres in play reveals Matmos’ hybrid musical DNA: Industrial music, vogue beats, gabber, Miami bass, free jazz, house, krautrock, drone, musique-concrete, and new age music all churn up to the surface and are sucked back into the depths. In this moiré pattern of textures, the listener encounters elements that sound like horns, kick drums, xylophones or sine waves, but in fact each component is meticulously crafted out of a manipulated sample of the machine. In other hands, such relentless conceptual tightness would court claustrophobia. Happily, Matmos’ willingness to transform audio and engage pop structure bypasses arid, arty thought exercises and produces instead their signature effect: abject and unusual noises yielding weirdly listenable music. The duo know how to rein back the processing too. In its starkest passage, we hear the rinse cycle of the machine run uninterruptedly for four minutes as a slow filter sweep combs across the oceanic frequency range. The result is a kind of “Environments” LP that never was: the Psychologically Ultimate Washing Machine. It’s a gesture that’s likely to infuriate some people and tantalize others. Is this the conceptualist emperor’s new clothes, a wistful domestic reverie, a parody of recent moves in “object oriented” philosophy, a feminist point about alienated domestic labor, an elegy to a discontinued model that stands in for unsustainable and water-wasteful technologies generally, or simply an immersion in the beauty of the noises of everyday life? Sucker-punching ambient pastoral, the album ends with a techno-industrial-booty bass workout that recapitulates motifs from across the entire composition before grinding to a halt, its task completed. Funny and sad, bouncy and creepy, liquid and mechanical, Ultimate Care II swirls with perverse paradox, but the agitation at its core offers vital evidence of Matmos’ abiding faith in the musical potential of sound.

File Under: Electronic
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Thunderbitch: s/t (ATO) LP
Finally more copies, in tomorrow…. “I’m a wild child!” Brittany Howard shouts on the eponymous debut album by Thunderbitch, and she leaves no doubt about it. Thunderbitch is where Ms. Howard, who leads Alabama Shakes, gets to blow off steam playing rock ‘n’ roll, whooping and hollering with no pressure to innovate or make big statements. It has self-explanatory song titles like “I Just Wanna Rock n Roll,” “Leather Jacket” and “Eastside Party,” and the music reaches back to Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, charged with late-1960s adrenaline.

 File Under: Rock, Alabama Shakes
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Tortoise: TNT (Thrill Jockey) LP
Tortoise’s third full-length release, TNT, was written and recorded during a 10-month interval in 1997 and originally issued in 1998. This longer-than-usual writing/production schedule was purposefully undertaken by the group in the hopes of crafting an expansive, diverse, yet thematically coherent offering. Clocking in at 65 minutes, it is certainly one of the most substantial Tortoise offerings to date. TNT builds upon the spare, instrumental framework of the group’s debut self-titled album, and the extended edits, melodic adventures, and klangfarben of the subsequent full-length release, Millions Now Living Will Never Die. Further to this, Tortoise’s interest in the possibilities offered by the remixing of tracks was realized within the actual production of TNT; individual elements, sections, or sometimes whole compositions mutate within the album’s shifting framework. These techniques were suitably realized thanks in part to the use of non-linear digital recording and editing methods, the first example of such work for the group. In addition, many of the arrangements push the group’s standard instrumentation into new territories with the inclusion of strings, woodwinds, and brass. The permanent addition of guitarist Jeff Parker (New Horizons ensemble, Chicago Underground Orchestra, Isotope 217) to the group’s lineup should be noted; his unique contributions can be felt throughout the album. Tortoise’s long-standing interest in electronic and computer music is revealed during the unbroken suite of tracks beginning with “In Sarah, Mencken, Christ, and Beethoven There Were Women And Men,” and ending with “Jetty.” Yet TNT remains very much a record produced by a group of musicians who enjoy presenting their material in a live context. To this end, the axis of drums-basses-guitars-keyboards-mallets-percussion continues to provide both the backdrop and the inspiration for points of departure in style and sound.

File Under: Post Rock
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Saul Williams: MartyrLoserKing (Fader) LP
MartyrLoserKing has just tagged his screen name onto the White House lawn via remote drone. He’s working from a remote e-waste camp in Burundi, Central Africa, neighboring the more well-known Rwanda, with equipment scrapped together from our old Dell PC towers and Sidekick IIs. Homeland Security, the NSA, and the CIA are tracing his signal back to a place that isn’t on the map or on the grid, and the alert level rises when he hacks NASA just to show he can do it. At least, that’s what Saul Williams will tell you when you ask about his upcoming album and the story it’s inspired. Written and recorded between Senegal, Reunion Island, Paris, Haiti, and New Orleans and New York, MartyrLoserKing is a multimedia project that engages the digital dialogue between the 1st and 3rd Worlds, and the global street sounds that yoke the two. “In Senegal, I was buying iPhones for $20, Beats for $10, because they get all the influx from China, with no regulation,” Williams explains. “So everyone’s online. Everyone’s high tech.” He sights Beyoncé, Fredo Santana, and Haitian field recordings as musical inspirations for his self-produced sixth album, straining trap hi-hats and mbira strokes together for a nuanced, entirely original sound. “I’m just letting you know what I’m reading and seeing while I’m writing. When I’m writing, the music leads.” “My goal with MartyrLoserKing was to skim global issues, throw them into my drum machine and see what polyrhythms formed,” he adds. “Never did I imagine that the release of ‘Burundi,’ the first song recorded for the album, would coincide with democratic unrest in Burundi as their president attempts to re-write their constitution to run for a 3rd term. My hope is that this song & songs like it give the protesters the fuel they need to overcome over-militarized police & power hungry politicians. I want the politicians, police, and all who stand in the face of democracy with over-zealous self-interest to know that their candle is burning at both ends and that the collective WE will never be silenced and the more they try the more our voices will be heard. The technology of awareness is solar powered and cannot be turned off.” Williams has been breaking ground since his debut album, Amethyst Rock Star, which was released in 2001 and executive produced by Rick Rubin. After gaining global fame for his poetry and writings at the turn of the century, Williams has performed in over 30 countries and read in over 300 universities, with invitations that have spanned from the White House, the Sydney Opera House, Lincoln Center, The Louvre, The Getty Center, Queen Elizabeth Hall, to countless villages, townships, community centers, and prisons across the world. The Newburgh, New York native gained a BA from Morehouse and an MFA from Tisch, and has gone on to record with Nine Inch Nails and Allen Ginsburg and has performed in numerous film and television roles.

File Under: Hip Hop
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Alice in Chains: Dirt (Music on Vinyl) LP
Beach House: Depression Cherry (Sub Pop) LP
Black Sabbath: s/t (Rhino) LP
Black Sabbath: Paranoid (Rhino) LP
David Bowie: Reality (Columbia) LP
Broadcast & The Focus Group: Investigate Witch Cults (Warp) LP
James Brown: Night Train (Not Now) LP
James Brown: Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag (Polydor) LP
James Brown: Super Bad (Polydor) LP
Neko Case: Blacklisted (Anti) LP
Neko Case: The Worse Things Get… (Anti) LP
Chrvches: Bones of What You Believe (Glass Note) LP
City & Color: Little hell (Dine Alone) LP
Coil: Queens of the Circulating Library (Eskaton) LP
Cold War Kids: Robbers & Cowards (Downtown) LP
Daft Punk: 1997 Alive: Live (Warner) LP
Daft Punk: Discovery (Warner) LP
Daft Punk: Human After All (Warner) LP
Daft Punk: Random Access Memories (Sony) LP
Miles Davis: Pangaea (4 Men With Beards) LP
Miles Davis: Dark Magus (4 Men With Beards) LP
Diiv: Is The Is Are (Captured Tracks) LP
Earth: 2 (Sub Pop) LP
Earth: Pentastar In The Style of Demons (Sub Pop) LP
Earth: Phase 3 (Sub Pop) LP
Father John Misty: Fear Fun (Sub Pop) LP
Grimes: Geidi Primes (Arbutus) LP
Hawkwind: In Search of Space (Rock Classics) LP
Hills: Frid (Rocket) LP
Fela Kute: Live with Ginger Baker (Knitting Factory) LP
Love: Forever Changes (Rhino) LP
MF Doom: Operation Doomsday (Metal Face) LP
Mogwai: Rock Action (Rock Action) LP
Pere Ubu: Dub Housing (Fire) LP
Purity Ring: Another Eternity (Last Gang) LP
Terry Riley: In C (Columbia) LP
Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street (Polydor) LP
Chris Stapleton: Traveller (Universal) LP
Strokes: Is This It (RCA) LP
Strokes: Room on Fire (RCA) LP
Talk Talk: Laughing Stock (Universal) LP
This Heat: Deceit (Modern Classics) LP
War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian) LP
White Zombie: La Sexorcisto (Music on Vinyl) LP
Steven Wilson: Hand.Cannot.Erase. (Snapper) LP
Various: Haiti Direct (Strut) LP

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