I was going to write a review of Yo La Tengo and Wilco at Coney Island the other night and I guess I sort of will but I think a theme will emerge and take over.

Let’s start with Yo La Tengo, the Hoboken three piece noise pop outfit. I love their recorded work, and I discovered why: I can pick which pieces to listen too. When they manage to balance the noise with the pop, doing both, they are incredible. But the pop just by itself is just pop, no bite or edge. It’s — nice. And the more experimental noise pieces lapse into self indulgence. Sonic Youth have made a career of occupying the noisy side of the street and in recent years have developed a vocabulary — even a language — of noise through which they talk to each other and us.  Ira Kaplan just wailed when he went off on noise excursions, supported –but not really in conversation with — YLT’s great rhythm section. But he wasn’t really talking. And when the pop happened it was good and fun, but it didn’t really engage with their experimental side. The two aspects met and passed each other by without much in the way of engagement. I feel bad saying it cuz I really like the band.

Wilco tries the same move but coming from a different place. Starting out as alt country pioneers in the late nineties, they developed an edgier sound as they grew. At a crucial juncture, after firing the late and talented Jay Bennett, they could have retreated and consolidated, like the Replacements did after having to fire Bob Stinson and that would have probably finished Wilco same as it did the ‘Mats. Instead they took on experimental guitarist Nels Cline and asked him to play as a band member, not just a lead guitar dropping in every four or five minutes from space. This unlikely match produced the album — or more particularly, the song — that hooked me on Wilco. Along the way I discovered Jeff Tweedy’s fairly poetic songwriting, in the reverse order to what I suppose is the usual route of discovery.

The album, A Ghost is Born, is uneven, largely marred by a pointless, formless fourteen minute excursion into hum and static. But on there lay a gem of a song, “Handshake Drugs,” with its wonderfull pre-recovery lyrics like “if I ever was myself I wasn’t that night.” But the hook for me was the way it started out as a catchy but standard piano, bass, and drums song only to be gradually, almost imperceptibly, invaded by Cline’s insect buzz guitars taking over and consuming the song, transforming it into something wild and altogether other by the end without the listener ever quite knowing how it happened.

Handshake Drugs” is a version in miniature of what my favorite radio show, Boston’s “Eric in the Evening” does with jazz. We would often times flip through the stations in Boston before dinner and land on some cosmopolitan sounding bebop to eat to only to land somehow invariably in Ornette Coleman/Sun Ra territory before dessert, moving there so sneakily as to never notice until it was too late to ever go back. Unfortunately, the subtle takeover was lost live as Cline dive bombed with squall right at the start of the second verse.

I have to admit I still liked some of the music, especially the guitars, both Tweedy’s and Cline’s, not to mention the occasional third one from one of the keyboard players. And the band is at the top of its game. And Tweedy writes compellingly. But still…

Mission of Burma

Caught the end of Fucked Up at East River Park in Brooklyn. Suitably fast and loud with lots of mosh action and crowd surfing. They have some pretty nihilistic politics and a history of wild shows but nothing too outrageous today. I’ not too sure what to think of them politco-punkwise. They used some Nazi shit on a split release but then Jello Biafra, author of “Nazi Punk Fuck Off,” came onstage to join them for an encore at one show. Still poking around teh interwebs for their 2004 “clarification” concerning the Nazi crap.  Maybe Jello’s gone soft?:)

Waiting for Mission of Burma to come on, Boston’s seminal contribution to postpunk. Never fails — the two tallest people at the show walk up and stand right in front of us. They were actually cool and when I asked they swapped spots with us (otherwise there would be a pic of a hairy back below instead of MOB).

I know MOB are pioneers in bringing interesting rhythmic changeups and tape looping to punk, but I never really got into their records the first time around even though they sounded interesting on paper. It all seemed a little busy and noodly, kind of the antithesis of the punk aesthetic.

Live is a different story though. They were incredibly tight as a band in a way that only people who are quite serious about their music and have been playing together for thirty years can be. And loud. And fast then slow then fast. All in all, they were way more musical than the last seventies vets I caught, the Damned, who were sloppy as hell but still fun. MOB reminded me of a guitar-driven punk-fueled version of XTC. The effects were seamlessly woven into the music. The guy doing the effects is the only non-original member I think, and he was back at the sound board, but he fit right in.

I really enjoyed the show but Monisha put on headphones and listened to Ozomatli on the train ride to Queens to wash the noise out of her head. She appreciated that they were technically very good but they were just not her cup of tea even though she quite liked Sonic Youth when we caught them last summer I’ll have to go back and give MOB’s recorded work another spin.

cough cough sputter gasp up for air

After a very busy couple of months, finally a little post.  Just finished mixing rreplay’s dnb piece “multigrain serial tiller.”   Give it a listen! I have lots to write, just no time to write it.  There are some great developments on the DIY scene, bringing multitouch to the masses.  I have to post some of my soundscapes from last summer’s trip to Kolkata.  One of my favorite bands, deerhunter, has a new album out…soon come, byem bye writem.

arcDev noise industries

Another plugin maker who makes cool music is Skye Klein from Australia, who plays under the moniker of Terminal Sound System along with a bunch of other projects.  His music, in TSS anyway, is dubby, minimalist, occasionally bordering on ambient but at other times moving towards industrial glitching.  His latest album is Compressor, and another, Constructing Towers, is due out soon You can hear the latest music at the TSS site.  His older stuff is all downloadable from Embryo Records.  Among my favorites from the old stuff are minimal tolerance to injected errata, deep trauma, and tomorrow will not come, though I have not really listened to the whole catalogue yet.

His plugin and software site is arcDev Noise Industries, which has a frustratingly cool web interface that evokes some alien version of DOS or the ancient gopher net protocol.  Type ‘help’ if you can’t figure it out.

I use two of his plugins a lot.  The first is the aptly named hosebeast, which you can hear in action on rreplay‘s sizzle.  Hosebeast is a “5-part fx processor for noisy, lofi, glitchy and general audio mayhem” with a filter, granulator, warper, bitcrusher, and ring modulator in any combination, including multiples of the same.  In other words a FSU device.

The other great arcDev plugin is arcDev’s entry in the 2007 KVR Developers’ Challenge plugin contest, Ellipsis.  It, along with mdsp‘s livecut, which I’ll discuss in its own post some time, are responsible for the drums in cubanecho and f it from rreplay.  Cubanecho also relies on mdsp’s entry in the 2006 KVR Developers’ Challenge, fire.  If you take a guitar and set it standing up with the strings against a tabletop, then pull it away a little and let go, then the strings will bounce on the edge of the tabletop ever more rapidly, just so: Booooooooing Booooing  Boooing Boing Bng Bn bn bnbnbnbnbn (I take no responsibility for any damage to guitars or furniture this may cause).  Mdsp has figured out how to mathematically model that warping speed change using delays in fire.

The way Ellipsis works is that you load ten samples into it, most usefully, drum loops that will more or less go together.  You have to tweak the settings a bit to make the drums play at the right (or wrong!) speed.  Then when you hit a corresponding note on your midi controller (usually a keyboard, but I use a footboard), it triggers the loop.  You can set it for any BPM and it will speed up or slow down your loop accordingly, or sync it to your plugin host.  If you only like the last half or the first quarter of the loop, you can play just that, or play it in reverse.  One useful way to set it is to put the same drum loop in several times and play different portions of it frontwards or backwards to give some variation to the drums.

So that’s it for today.  I couldn’t find any of mdsp’s music to play for you, but I hope you enjoy rreplay and Terminal Sound System.

and the music they make…

So, all these people making vst plugins, it seems they do it first so that they can get some sound or another from inside their head out into the world, or lacking that they try to just see how badly they can fuck with it, mangle it, stretch it, scratch it, chebyshev it, stomp it, or otherwise apply some arcane equation to hear what happens themselves and if it is anything interesting or they actually get the sound they hear in their heads out into the world, then the coolest of them release them unto the world with it sometimes becoming a business, and there are some amazing plugins that are worth parting with a few bucks, but mostly I suspect its about the sound.

So I have been listening a little to the music of plugin or bidule writers to hear what they are doing with their own inventions.  Let me start with Jerry Smith, who makes what are called “groups” for plogue bidule.  These are like plugins, but because they remain within bidule they don’t crash, which is a lovely thing.  Not that crashes aren’t sometimes lovely.  Sometimes.  Jerry and his wife Sonsherée Giles collaborate on multimedia performances.  Sonsherée is a dancer and Jerry does sound installations/music for her performances.  I don’t know anything about dance but enjoyed the pieces, but I’ll keep the details of what I enjoyed to myself so as to cover up for some of said ignorance.  The soundscapes/music are textural, you can practically feel them (tactilely rather than emotionally is what I mean here).  David Toop, in writing about the experimental music scene in one of his books (either Haunted Weather or Oceans of Sound can’t remember which, but they are both great) , talks about how musicians are playing with very short and long times, and exploring very quiet sounds.  The quiet sounds are the stuff of the textures here, and one of Toop’s points is that it makes people listen if not more attentively then closer.  I have not been through the whole site yet, but a good example of this is the first piece, “opening” for the dance piece performed by Sonsherée, Music for
One Breath is an Ocean
for a Wooden Heart.  While this piece is entirely texture without notes, when the notes do come they are sparse and placed carefully.  No pyrotechnics here, something much better.  Consider “theme 3: Collapse” or “Sad Ending” for examples.

Jerry, who travels under the moniker jersmi on the plogue bidule forums, helped me out on the one group I’ve worked on, called the rhythmecho, and has provided a bunch more help to anyone trying to figure out the workings of bidule.  To hear an example of one of his groups, called J-BGran-X, a granulator if you know what that is,  along with the rhythmecho and several others (all referred to in the title somehow or another…no time to unpack the whole thing now) check out my newest, awkwardly named crackly kerrstinn granulated double lama (fixed corrupted file. 8/6).

Gotta run to the airport, so that’s it for now.

plugin freak…

I confess, I’m a plugin freak.  I have at last count, about 500 VSTs and VSTis installed, and have just set up an ubuntu studio version of my desktop so I can try out the LADSPA plugs for linux.

dronebox and polycombI finally broke down and bought Oli Larkin‘s great dronebox and polycomb VSTs.  I’ve been using an old demo version of dronebox for a while, but when I figured out how to run midi notes out of my guitar into the polycomb filter, the results were too cool so I straightened up and bought it.  Dronebox is a set of six or seven resonant comb filters with all sorts of tweakable settings.  You tune each one to a note, and when the corresponding note gets fed through, it resonates like a sympathetic string.  I use it as the wash in these two ambient pieces: “ambient 040328” and “ambient 040428“.  The loop is recorded live with the elogoxa Elottronix plugin, which has a great filter section you can hear tweaked in both pieces.  A bit more rocking, this song combines the dronebox with another of my favorite plugs, Krakli’s TrAmp, in a song suitably named “dronebox tramp.”  This time the looper is loopy llama or mobius, can’t remember which.  Both are great…I’ve generally gone with loopy llama lately ‘cuz its simpler and uses less resources.  You can hear it a lot in rreplay, where TrAmp, Dronebox, and DK+ drums, all get worked out regularly in plogue bidule.  Mobius is a spot-on emulation of the Gibson echoplex.  You can use the same manual for most of the controls.  Oh, except mobius is like having 8 echoplexes. Oh, and with unlimited loop length.  Oh, and its free instead of about a thousand bucks.

And now back to Oli’s plugins.  If you want to know what polycomb will do to guitar, check out this freshly recorded piece, polycombatose, where I am just working through all the presets.  The looper is loopy llama this time, recording just the bass (the trusty Hohner slammer run through an electri-Q eq and ruby tube tube emulator).  Missing Eric on the bass… The drums on both dronebox tramp and polycombatose are from nusofting’s most excellent DK+ drum machine, this time imitating an ancient Acetone rhythm box.  In order to get midi notes out of the guitar, I use G-Tune (which besides being a strobe-accurate tuner, converts the signal it reads to a midi note) and then run its midi out to a maple midi port. Of course, everything is played and recorded in one take via the ever-amazing plogue bidule.

Leave a comment if you wish, would love to know if you are listening.

last rreplay for a while…

Ahh well, Eric has gone back to Boston, thus ending for now one of the funnest musical projects I’ve had in a while.  rreplay recorded our last-for-now session on July 1.  It was a bit out there for a number of reasons on my part.  First, I had not regularly practiced in a month while I was away in Kolkata and Japan (more on the sounds from there later…), so the ideas were bubbling up but the fingers were a bit sluggish.  Second, I had just returned from Tokyo, where Monisha and I stayed a few extra days so I could catch the avant gard Japanese experimental guitar festival (also about which more later).  So what’s to listen to?  My favorite for weird factor is “squelch.”  What is not bass is manipulated guitar echo.  “drip grind” has a cool wash thing going that mutates over time.  I think my favorite is “nothing to declare,”  though “spider camp” and “flow control” are kinda cool in an experimentalist sort of way…all three are in the key of z.  That leaves “low town twilight” where I was trying too hard to evoke a particular mood instead of just going with it, and “neither flotsam nor jetsam.”  Not bad all in all.  I’ll certainly miss rreplay-ing.  We’ll put together an album or two more from it…if you find anything in the rrepository particularly compelling, in part or in whole, let us know in the comments here!

A mess of tv and sixties stuff

One more tune from the mess . . . actually let’s see, more like eight…see if you can name them all. This has one of my favorite “wall of squall” moments in it, where for about fifteen seconds we ran everything on eleven and a half before returning to your regularly scheduled programming.

As always, If you were around when the mess was playing, drop me a line either from the contact page, or to rath [at] way [dot] net or leave a comment. If you do the latter, I have no other way of responding than commenting back, so you might want to subscribe to the rss feed (over in the right column).

More rreplay in the rrepository

The 3/24 and 3/31 rreplay sessions are now in the rrepository. From 2/24, I really like “sizzle” and “summer shirt” — see if you can figure out the pun in the title of the latter one from the music. From 3/31, I like “basspace” — that’s all Eric’s bass other than the drums. No guitar until the bat sonar near the end. This came out of a mis-connection in the program that was sending Eric’s bass through all the guitar effects by accident. Once we figured out what was happening and fixed it, we went back and did it on purpose, with Eric playing and me knob twiddling the drums and bass. “Sand garden” is an introspective piece that gets chopped up and reconstituted at the end. “Pali night ride” is another moody piece that I like. We’ll probably eventually fade it out after the first few minutes of guitar cuz while the keyboard textures that follow are interesting, I think the guitar section captures a better feel.

  • rreplay home page, including our first album, rrepertoire, which you can listen to and download free.

More mess from 1983…

Wow, posting a mess song turned up Melody and Greg, neither of whom I’ve heard from in 25 yrs (more my fault than theirs!), so let’s see what happens if I post a few more. Here are the other three songs from our only studio session. The first one is a fast and loud guess at what 1999 would look like from 1984 if folks like Reagan stayed in power…hmmm, not too far off….Its called suburban dogs after the last verse, which I wrote along with some other stuff after a long night of partying …when I woke up, someone, I think Bobby, had read it and told me, all hungover, “this sucks, this sucks, but this one is ok” with the ok one turning into the song and the other stuff going out with the trash. The next one we came up with during a sound check in Jacksonville Beach about a week before the recording session. Corey came up with the beat and I started playing the guitar line, and Palmer heard it and came up with the lyrics: the result was new beat. The last one, she’s mine, was Palmer’s ode to Melody, who was not exactly ownable! It is a Psychedelic Furs-ish sounding thing with a weird intro and break.

Again, if this post turns up more people from back then, join waymusic and then you can write what what you remember from the Daytona scene in the wiki as soon as you log in. I’ll keep putting up more music in the meanwhile. If you leave a comment here, don’t forget to also leave me an email addie by sending a note to me from the contact page so I can write back if you want. And if you are just coming here for the first time, don’t forget to check out the rest of, including rreplay, my current project with bassist Eric Parker – as always, the music is listenable and downloadable for free.