Archive: 2011

Nerdy New Frontiers (I Think)

Friday, November 4th, 2011

I went to Cycling 74‘s big Max/MSP conference on behalf of Tape Op, who arguably have no business at such an intensely specialized event.

The most notable new addition is the certainly the optional new “Gen” object add-on, which blurs the lines between Max patches and the compiled C code used to create custom external objects, and then there’s also a partial implementation of the HTML5 JavaScript API into the canvas element which should allow… HEY!! WAKE UP!! OK, there are probably better places to find out about all that. So instead, I just wrote down the best one-liners.

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It was fantastic and I learned a lot — enough to compel me, finally, I think, to actually patch together some of my ideas instead of just admiring the platforms from afar (don’t get too comfy, SuperCollider, because eventually I’m coming for your ass too).

So maybe that’s the big landmark for post #100 on this blog. I didn’t have much time last night when all the drinking and writing was done, but my resolve did manifest in a blitzkrieg attempt to program an alarm clock in Pure Data that would wake me up the following morning with a reminder to get this show on the road. Surprisingly, it did not take me long at all. Even more surprisingly, it actually worked, and I made it to my 10am appointment on time.

I’m sure I will eventually find this patch extremely embarrassing. But, well.

Cap Yo Ass

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a roundup for eMusic about some of my favorite murder ballads.

Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue – Where The Wild Roses Grow

“Why do they keep calling me the wild rose?” she keeps asking. “My name is Elisa.” You know the drill — boy meets girl, boy kills girl, boy plants rose between girl’s teeth. But what makes this so fascinating are the dueling accounts whereby both killer and victim describe in parallel each of the three days leading up to the murder. He says, “I kissed her.” She says, “He hit me with a rock.”

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Unfortunately I couldn’t include it in the roundup, but this article idea came to me while I was listening to “Old Judson,” a fantastic song by Charlottesville songwriter Peyton Tochterman‘s short-lived mid-00′s bluegrass trio Fair Weather Bums, in which peppery mandolin runs and subtle vocal harmonies populate a small world of places and characters only to slowly darken them on the way to the big reveal at the end. I really want more people to hear this.

Morning View

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Moments before the clock runs out on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, here’s an introspective and retrospective piece for the Voice about one of my coping devices at the time. If you like it, you might also proceed on to the companion interview with a somewhat confused rock star.

The most violent guitars turn up on a song about suppressing the urge to retaliate and trusting in cosmic retribution. This, of course, was not the way the 9/11 aftermath played out.

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Vote Bush In 2011

Friday, July 29th, 2011

gavin-rossdale

I enjoyed the Bush reunion show way more than I thought I would.

My second concert ever was Bush’s tour in support of Sixteen Stone. (I can’t bring myself to tell you the first.) This necessitated an extra ticket for a friend’s parent, who drove a van full of kids up to the arena an hour away while we giggled in the back about girls and whatever, and then sat up in the stands while we went down to the floor to explore our first-ever mosh pit. We promptly discovered crowdsurfing. “The rest of you guys, sure — but I swear, every time I looked down, Vijith was floating across the crowd,” said Jefferson’s dad after the show. As an awkward 14-year-old who couldn’t play any sports and took forever to work up the guts to admit to anybody at school that I was trying to learn to play the guitar, that’s as proud as my moments got. Bowery Ballroom in 2011, though? Totally different story — I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it was upsetting to realize as soon as I entered that it looked and smelled like a room full of Shinedown fans (hair gel, beer, sweat, shame).
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Yer Concrete Shoes

Friday, July 8th, 2011

subway-instruments

An exciting new project! For my new Village Voice column Cast In Concrete, I wander around NYC recording buskers and street performers, then write about them and post the MP3s on the Sound Of The City blog. Here’s the first installment, wherein I happen across the wonderful Sistine Criminals in Washington Square Park.

On Blip Festival’s hard-on for hardware

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

nes-guitar

Well, here I am writing about chiptune music again, which must mean it’s time for the Blip Festival, NYC’s annual video game music bonanza. This time I previewed the lineup with a roundup of the specific game systems and the artists that use them.

Nanoloop 2 for the Game Boy Micro somehow packs unbelievably sophisticated filters and oscillators for subtractive synthesis into a gorgeous minimalist greyscale grid, which makes for one of the most soothing and meditative music composition spaces I’ve yet seen on any platform, bigger dogs like Pro Tools very much included. Nanoloop might actually be the best way for non-chiptune musicians to dip their toes into this world–you can’t very well duct-tape a proper keyboard to your acoustic guitar, now can you?
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In which I give my heart to Autechre

Friday, May 6th, 2011

autechre

I’m fantastically excited about my latest essay for the Village Voice (and tickled that they started the “appreciations” tag just for this piece). It can be hard to cut through the torrential weirdness of the British experimental electronic duo Autechre, so they often get filed away as music to academically respect rather than passionately adore. Here, I defend them as a band that’s well worth your emotional investment, filtered through the autobiographical story of my own decision to move to New York City.

By the time Quaristice came around in 2008, just a few months before my big move, almost all the sensible time signatures had been subverted by experimental ambition, and sure, there was probably also a little ego in there too. “Perlence” was an especially difficult track–just two minutes and change, but I still can’t figure out how to count its pulses, and when the inevitable remix came, its running time had been expanded to a full 58 minutes. Even the song titles grew stranger: from “Flutter,” “Chatter,” “Eggshell” and “Further” to “fwzE,” “ThePlclCpC,” and “90101-51-6.” It’s mostly from these obnoxiously antisocial shenanigans that we get the common but misguided notion that if Autechre’s music displays any beauty at all, it comes in a sterile and mechanical form, like a sculpture built from gears or animations made with a glitching graphics card.

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Shows You Missed, Mister Mountaineer Edition

Friday, May 6th, 2011

punch-brothers

Village Voice concert tidbits about Punch Brothers, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Cut Copy, Patrick Stump, and DeVotchKa.

Ali Farka Touré for Rolling Stone

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

ali-farka-toure

Blues guitarist Corey Harris has started working on a biography about the life and music of African guitar legend Ali Farka Touré, and I wrote about it for Rolling Stone.

Shows You Missed: New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down Edition

Friday, February 11th, 2011

infected-mushroom

Recently in the Village Voice: Tricky, Infected Mushroom, The Crystal Method, Roger Daltrey, White Lies, and The Carolina Chocolate Drops. SPECIAL BONUS: my Pazz & Jop 2010 ballot; angry comments welcome below.