Category Archives: Cut-Out Bin

The Business of America is Bizness

We end up around the mountain that I climb to lose you
I said, I said give me the business that business could work through,
I say, Ask me but all my wisdom departed
Tell me but all my wisdom departed
But help please at least answer me this,
Answer me, answer me

What’s the business, yeah
Don’t take my life away
Don’t take my life away

Merrill Garbus
Tune-Yards, Bizness

Chaino and Türkbas: False Ethnography for Hi-Fi Travelers

Growing up, Chaino’s face was always around, floating in and out of the amazing collection of LPs and reel-to-reel tapes my Dad had accumulated before marriage. Every now and then, we’d plop it on the turntable and groove to raw African beats, churned through a mesh of steel drums, slapping palms, shakers, bongos, and moaning voices (yes, moans!) Never stopped to think about which African country Chaino was from – “just Africa” was enough for us. The convincingly tribal LP cover sealed the deal – Chaino was real in our minds.
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Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou

Sometimes the simplest music hits you like a ton of bricks. Somewhere between Chopin and Sun Ra (in his more pensive moments) lie the gorgeous etudes of 87-year-old Ethiopian nun Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, reflecting on her passage from religious persecution to depression to solace. Emahoy’s piano moves between dark sultry and enlivened pizzicato, like the soundtrack of a pre-talkie drama full of sweet melancholy, punctuated by fleeting moments of hope. Her melodies are a graceful, fleeting ballet of simple truths, spiritual insight, and awkward stumbles. In every phrase, you can hear the course of Emahoy’s life, so different from your own.

Meara O’Reilly for Boing-Boing:

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou is a nun currently living in Jerusalem. She grew up as the daughter of a prominent Ethiopian intellectual, but spent much of her young life in exile, first for schooling, and then again during Mussolini’s occupation of Ethiopia’s capitol city, Addis Ababa, in 1936. Her musical career was often tragically thwarted by class and gender politics, and when the Emperor himself actually went so far as to personally veto an opportunity for Guèbrou to study abroad in England, she sank into a deep depression before fleeing to a monastery in 1948.

Emahoy is now 87 years old and plays piano at her monastery nearly seven hours a day.

This is music poignant and hopeful, for reflecting on life lived and not yet lived. You want this in yours.

Highway 2006 Revisited

malajube.jpgAs our website returns from a winter hiatus, poll results are everywhere, and not just in Presidential politics. When I still voted in the Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop critics’ poll, I remember thinking how absurdly fast it seemed to rank the previous year’s best music in January. But this time, when Pazz and Jop followed the Idolator poll and dozens of other young rivals, it already seemed like old news. With a few variations, the top poll results roughly resembled the “year-end” list the now-defunct Stylus Magazine posted in late October.

I can’t complain about multiple poll winner LCD Soundsystem, the brainy dance band that tossed off the best rip I’ve heard on New York’s Michael Bloomberg (“your mild billionaire mayor’s now convinced he’s a king”). I’m also thrilled at the top-ten consensus for M.I.A.’s Kala, which gave a trans-global boom-boom-boom to those of us who have, like the National, spent too long feeling half-awake in a fake empire. Still, there’s a problem in treating lists like these as canons of coolness. They call to mind my favorite 2007 music review, which was so fake it’s real. The Onion reported that Pitchfork gave a rating of 6.8 to “music”—not any one recording or genre, but its entire history. It seems music, while brilliant at times, is weighed down with too many “mid-tempo ballads,” and worse, “the whole medium comes off as derivative of Pavement.”

Maybe I’m just getting as cranky as the music geek in LCD’s earlier song “Losing My Edge”—the guy who was “there at the first Can show in Cologne,” only to get upstaged by “the Internet seekers who can tell me every member of every good group from 1962 to 1978.” But I decided to avoid premature evaluations and go where nobody else seemed to be heading: 2006. With a year’s reflection, I wondered, how had my presumed favorites of a year ago held up, and what had I missed that meant more to me now? The results weren’t quite what I expected.

Continue reading Highway 2006 Revisited

The Osmond Brothers' Mother's Cookbook

Osmonds-1 Playing a round of Scrabble (no, not that kind) with the wife tonight, needed some good thinkin’ music to get in the groove. What better choice than a far-from-pristine LP copy of Donny Osmond’s 1973 opus, A Time For Us? But lo, what should greet my hungry eyes when sliding the record out of its sleeve? This tantalizing grid of original Osmond product offers, each one better than the last (pardon the stitched-together scan).

I’ve always wondered what would happen if you actually tried to order something you found in a 30-year-old comic book or, in this case, record sleeve (assuming you had the balls to actually cut up the sleeve to get to the order form, leaving your prize records defenseless against the cardboard outer sleeve). Would your money go into a black hole? Or would some sweet old lady sitting bored at a desk in front of a warehouse full of long-unsold merch cheerfully put your order together and send it on its way? It’d definitely be the purple tank top for me.

The order form is on the reverse, and emphasizes the Osmond’s Mormon roots: “Utah residents add 4.375% sales tax.”

Rickrolling Yngwie

Rickrolling is the Web 2.0 equivalent of the old bait-and-switch: Promise footage of Madonna covering Sonic Youth on your tragically hip music site, but instead deliver video of Rick Astley’s debut single, “Never Gonna Give You Up.” You’ve been rickrolled! The meme is apparently giving way to its bastard step-child “buttrolling,” in which the unsuspected viewer is unwittingly lured into watching Samwell’s astonishingly frank party invitation What What In the Butt (Ha Ha! Made you click!)

But where Samwell hits you over the head (with his prodigious butt, presumably), Santeri Ojala, aka YouTube trickster StSanders took rickrolling to a whole ‘nuther level when he started over-dubbing video of guitar gods Yngwie Malmsteen, Eric Clapton, Steve Vai and Eddie van Halen with his own obviously skilled but painfully bad guitar solos.

Yngwie, corpulent in skin-tight leather, riding the coattails of symphonic elegance, sounds like an air guitar hero from your junior high lunch line (don’t think back – it hurts too bad):

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Hancock Herbie Hancock’s tribute to Joni Mitchell “River” is gorgeous in every way, and wholly deserving of its recent grammy (one of only two jazz records to have won Album of the Year in the past 50 years, yeesh). Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen, Norah Jones, Joni herself, Hancock’s lush keyboards, horns by Wayne Shorter… what more could an old Joni head want? The kindling power of the album inspired Salon’s Gary Kamiya to write a moving muse on the duality of rock and jazz in his life

Luckily, around this time the rest of the high-culture spinach on my plate started to taste better, which encouraged me to stick with jazz. I had known, in a dutiful art-history way, that Cézanne’s landscapes were better than pretty ones by some officially accredited hack; now I started to actually see them and like them. As a sophomore in high school I had bought an old 78 rpm set of Debussy’s “Iberia” because I thought it was an antiquarian ticket to cultural gravitas; now I realized that you got an incredible rush out of the end of the first movement. The kicks started getting easier to find. The same thing happened with jazz. The dusty old high-culture drugs kicked in there too. I might have started out listening to jazz because it was good for me, but the more I did, the more I realized that I liked it. Those schmaltzy tunes turned out to conceal beautiful modulations — quieter, less obvious than those in rock, but with a complex logic that grew on you. As I learned to follow the mathematics of jazz, I started to be able to listen without so much interior strain.

Worth a read.

They Might Be Giants: Eli Manning's Purple Reign

eli.jpegprince-purple1.jpegWe can all breathe a sigh of relief now that last week’s Super Bowl managed to conclude without a Tom Petty wardrobe malfunction. Petty’s halftime set was solid enough, although Patriots fans would probably have substituted “Even the Losers (Get Lucky Sometimes)” for “Free Fallin’.” It could have been much worse, and at the Super Bowl, former host of the Up With People Singers and a wax statue resembling Paul McCartney, it often has.

Still, the Sedentary Wilbury didn’t seem up to the task of accompanying one of the most electrifying games in the sport’s history,won on the underdog New Jersey Giants’ last-chance power drive. That task would have required something else, and I don’t mean the Boss. I’m talking about phallic guitars turned heavenward, funky drummers fighting foo, backup dancers with rain-resistant hairdos, and the wankiest stadium-show riffing since Jimi Hendrix cut his teeth on the National Anthem. In short, it would have required last year’s halftime show.

With a week’s reflection and time off for an adult cartoon (and there’s nothing more cartoonish than hearing the phrase“SuperDuper Tuesday” drop out of George F. Will’s mouth), I decided to compare this year’s Super Bowl MVP, occasional karaoke singer Eli Manning, with last year’s Super Bowl MVP, Prince. It helped that Scot hosted a home screening of Purple Rain, which I hadn’t seen since it was really still 1984. After the click-through, I’ll score how Prince and Eli stacked up.

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Monk's Dream

Sun RA One of our oldest and dearest friends, who goes by the name Rinchen, is a devout Buddhist currently two thirds of the way through a three-year hitch in a monastery in the Santa Cruz mountains, where he is studying with the teacher he’s chosen for life, and practicing almost total silence. Rinchen has no access to the outside world — no phone calls, no newspapers, no internet, no television… and no music. The latter fact is particularly striking, as Rinchen is one of the deepest listeners we know – a man who could spend an entire day tapped into an 8-disc Cecil Taylor free improv set, then put on some Parliament or Missy Elliott and jam the night away. Rinchen’s music collection was breathtaking — before he sold it all to finance his silent expedition.

A few times a year, Rinchen is granted a day or two to visit with family and to write letters to friends. We wrote him a few months ago asking what music runs through a monk’s mind in between the long periods of silence. Today we received the following poem/riff on Cage, Monk, Miles, The Meters and more (with bundled playlist).
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