Aka, some stuff stapled to the ears of the year so far.
The Books ( Mini Review )
John Curtin Hotel ( Carlton, Melb Jan 09)
Thanks to the tasteful way they’d championed the collagey folktronica sound back in the day, what with their sparse guitar, cello, vocals and samples (though never sampling or playing drumkits, only using ‘inanimate objects like children’s toys and filing cabinets, sampled and looped’ ) and their charming albums ‘Thought For Food’ and ‘The Lemon of Pink’, New York duo The Books have gathered quite a following. Expecting they were only in Australia for the Sydney festival, I was pleased to discover they were also doing a Melbourne show, and that it extended their sampling to include video in the live show. Unfortunately the John Curtin’s low stage meant two things – only the front row of the audience could see them performing ( they sat near milk-crates to play with their electronic gear and play their guitar / cello ), and even the onstage projector screen itself was hard to see much of. Eyes closed the music was gorgeous, if a little too perfectly replicating their album sounds. Open eyed, the screen shared some of the responsibility for mirroring the albums so tightly : it seemed they were playing entire tracks of video for each song, which included lots of screen-based audio. Many of their known sample riffs’ then, were sampled from video in the first place, which makes for an absorbing av show, but limits their live improvisation when played as stand alone tracks. Later realised, they released a DVD of 13 music videos, ‘Play All’, in 2007, and you can watch snippets from these at www.thebooksmusic.com. New album on its way, Break, themed around New Age philosophies, and using samples from self-help and hypnotherapy cassettes.
Kicking space musical western ass since 2001, the year of his debut feature, American Astronaut, storytelling musician and film director Cory McAbee was in Melbourne recently for the screening of his cinematic follow-up, Stingray Sam. Designed for both mobile devices and the cinema, it’s shot with smaller screens in mind ( a tendency for close-ups rather than long shots, lots of static shots, broken up into six small episodes etc ), the film’s another great vehicle for Cory’s uniquely combined explorations of musical storytelling and cinematic style. Although the songs of his band, The Billy Nayer Show, tend to be comedic, they survive or even thrive on the salt of the earth charm embedded throughout, and it helps that the film(s) can shift into song in such unpredictable ways. Recommendo.
Download episode one and two for free, check out the storyboards, buy the DVD at stingraysam.com.
This is the last song played at The Tote, the latest Melbourne live music venue to suffer under licencing changes. Complete with 2-3 minutes of arm-tingling cheers at the end.
Other Kinds of Magic:
Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers.
The World As Sonic Map?
Via @ballardian, a link to a nice post about collaborative sound mapping projects – from the BBC, others exploiting Google Maps, and sites that allow to pick a starting point and destination, then present a mix of field recordings between the two places ( sound transit ). The Freesound map gets a deserved shout-out in the comments at the same site, and elsewhere you can listen to the underwater atmosphere of Antarctica in realtime.
All of the above of course presumes we navigate by text / visual cues… what about if we navigated by sound?
The World As Instrument?
The World as instrument: A Theoretical Workshop Taught by Francisco Lopez ::February 16-18 2010
“focused on the historical, sociological and philosophical aspects of different practices that have the “real world” as a source, or an inspiration, for sonic creation. From ancestral manifestations of music derived from nature to the present massive sonic exploration of our world, analyzing the historical attempts at recording sonic reality and creatively transform it, from musical notation to digital technology… the workshop aims at stirring up discussion and at challenging many stereotypical and misleading conceptions about recorded sound in many diverse areas and objects of study, from bioacoustics to experimental music, from phonographs to hard disk recorders, from birds to cosmic radio emissions.”