Friday, October 31, 2008

Oíche Shamhna Shona Daoibh

You wot, come again. All the post title means is Happy Hallowe’en To Everyone, but in Irish Gaelic. Hey, the Celts started all this spooky stuff hella way back in the day, as they say. Hallowe’en is a Christianized version of the ancient Celtic Festival of the Dead and the Celtic New Year, or Samhain in Gaelic, but I won’t bore you with tedious details just check out the links for some more info.

Hallowe’en in San Francisco is a whole other kettle of bananas altogether, or is it? Dressing up, getting down, painting the town red, or a nice shade of pink, preferably with some No On Prop 8 stickers festooned throughout — bigotry ain’t big and it’s not clever. Anyway, Hallowe’en is always a blast in this here town. And although there is an arse load of stuff going on tonight I think I will be pointing myself in the direction of the newly re-opened Paradise Lounge, where the man like TK Disco and Conor of Red Dot have teamed up with Maly and Ryan of Gun Club to bring in UK electro-funk DJ legend Greg Wilson. It should be a blast, the tunes will be exceptional and I will be on the dancefloor.

Wherever you will be, have a happy, happy Hallowe’en folks. We’re living in ever toughening times, so whoop it up tanite, aiight?


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spirit Catcher in San Francisco, Friday November 14th

Belgian outfit Spirit Catcher will be playing live at Mighty on Friday, November 14th. The duo is comprised of Jean Vanesse and Thomas Sohet, a pair of synth nuts who imbue their chunky house sound with ample helpings of squelched out electro funk that tips its hat to Earth Wind and Fire and Mr. Flagio. They have recorded material for prolific labels like Silver Network, Freerange, Winding Road, Missive and Moodmusic, and played at clubs and festivals the world over Mighty is the perfect setting for these guys, with its warehouse like feel and sterling reputation for kick ass shows.

I’ll be donning my dj hat and laying out a set that will touch down in Detroit, Ghent, Riccione, Chicago and SF. Come through, it’s gonna be a rocker, no two ways about it.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shoegazer Disco

Richard Morel, aka Morel, and Pink Noise, is an extremely prolific musician based in Washington DC. He has worked with Deep Dish on many occasions, co-producing, co-writing and singing on tracks from the house music duo’s Junk Science and George Is On albums. He also co-produced and co-wrote songs on Cyndi Lauper’s last album, Bring Ya To The Brink, and has remixed Depeche Mode, New Order and the Killers amongst many others. And if all that wasn’t enough, he promotes, and djs at, the montly Blow Off parties in DC, a collaboration with Bob Mould, of Hüsker Dü and Sugar fame, in whose touring band Morel also plays. Expect Blow Off shindigs around the country soon, including San Frandisco.

His new album, The Death Of The Paperboy, which will be released November 4th on his own Outsider Music label, is a refreshing amalgam of sounds and influences that range from shoe gaze rock (Richard Morel calls the sound of this project ‘shoegazer disco’), to house, electro, indie rock and disco. On top of this, it is a two disc set, with the first disc being more or less straight ahead rock, albeit with the lushness that is a prerequisite of shoe gaze, and some subtle electronic touches.

The second disc opens out into house and electronic vistas, with remixes of tracks from the first disc and extra tracks like “Sweet Thing” and Shoegazer Disco.” The whole package is a surprisingly adventurous, yet listenable and accessible album, which will appeal to people who like Brit pop, shoe gaze, alternative rock, house music and downtempo gear. As this decade wears on, or out, it is obvious that there are more ways than one to skin the cat of dance/rock fusion. Here’s another very worthy addition to the canon.


Feel This: Deerhunter - Microcastle

Highly recommended! Bigger and brighter things are on the way for these BS favorites who are continuing to push the beautiful--noisy axis to it's ends. Pre-order here! Released early December.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dick Around!

"All I do now is dick around, All I do now is dick around, dick around" - these are words from the profound and mighty Sparks. This song taken from their 20th album, "Hello Young Lovers."

Please take some time to "Dick Around" with Sparks, one of our favorite things at Bananaspam headquarters. Happy recession Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bend an ear to The Morning Benders!

If you haven’t heard Talking Through Tin Cans, the last album by the East Bay’s finest, The Morning Benders, then you need to grab it asap. It’s on the Plus One Music label, was released in May and contains a coupla two or three kicky tunes, including the notoriously infectious opener “Damnit Anna.” Also the Oakland/Berkeley, Caleeforniaaaay four piece have an i-tunes session coming on the 11th of November and they are playing their final show of the year at Rickshaw Stop on December 5th.

And go here for some rather inspired cover versions that these young men have crafted. The set is called the Bedroom Covers and they’re not half bad or fully shabby at all. You have been warned, aiight?


Monday, October 20, 2008

New School of Seven Bells Album On The Way!

School of Seven Bells, the new band comprised of former Secret Machines member Benjamin Curtis, and sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza once of On!Air!Library!, has a new album dropping next Tuesday, the 28th of October. It’s called Alpinisms and it will be released on the fine and very awesome Ghostly International label.


Friday, October 17, 2008

James Lavelle at Mighty Tonight!!

Mo Wax founder, trip hop innovator and legendary dj James Lavelle graces the decks at SF’s best club, Mighty, tonight. Lavelle is known for his role in UNKLE, bringing DJ Shadow to the world’s attention and for playing banging ass, eclectic sets that get crowds hyped and the parties rocking.

Should be a fucking good one!!!


New Unabombers/Electric Chair Mix Out On Tirk.

The UK label, Tirk has just released a banging mix by Manchester’s Unabombers, the resident djs at the infamous, but sadly defunct Electric Chair party. The CD is called Electric Chair Saved My Life and it celebrates the club’s thirteen year run from 1995 til January of this year and includes some of the biggest tunes played by the Unabomber djs, Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford. The boys plough through eighteen of the tracks that defined the Electric Chair’s long history. These include, “Beau Mot Plage” by Isolée. “Let’s Be Young’ by Quentin Harris and NY Gospel/dance classic “Stand On The Word,” by Joubert Singers.

Cowdrey and Crawford deftly mix the electric with the soulful and bring you through the emotional changes that any good mix should manifest. The inclusion of classics like “I Need You Now,” by Sinnamon, “Gabrielle,” by Roy Davis Jr. Feat Peven Everett and Daniel Wang’s Sleeque sampling “Like A Dream I Can’t Stop Dreaming” will delight the trainspotters and groovers alike. Unfortunately, Electric Chair banger and boogie monster “Heat You Up (Melt You Down)” by Shirley Lites isn’t included. 

Back in 2000 when this classic was reissued by Paradise Garage founder Mel Cheren’s Westend Records label, my recent magazine write up on the track was chosen for the sleeve sticker by kick ass label manager turned kick ass publicist, Andy Reynolds. In it I gave the Unabombers big love for being champions of this song, the first record I ever bought on American soil, in Vinylmania on Carmine Street, NY in ’95.

But they do close their set with the Frankie Knuckles dub of Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody,” another fave that I’ve been firing on mix tapes since the mid ‘90s. Electric Chair Saved My Life dropped on October 6th so go get it, it’s great.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Robin Thicke, disco, soul, electro funk and painting the White House black

A few days ago I wondered what had happened to R&B? When I say R&B I mean commercial or commercial leaning modern soul music, it’s top 40, you can dance to or chill to it. It kinda got caught up in the materialist cluster fuck that this decade became. Whereas some artists found their soul in the cell, R&B as a whole has lost its soul in the sell, a hard sell at that. But I just had a quick listen through Robin Thicke’s new album, Something Else and it does hold some promise and maybe indicates where R&B could go next…back to the 70s to trawl for ideas and inspiration.

I’ve a feeling that the next, post-Bush, era will be harking back to the ‘90s and by default to the ‘70s because the ‘90s were another disco era — remember early ‘90s house, De La Soul, Brand New Heavies and Deee Lite. Just as Aaliyah’s “Try Again” was an indication that Timbaland was aware of the burgeoning electro/new wave revival in 2000, Thicke’s album is a shot across the prow of this era, telling us that the next will be less about some of the noisy, empty and glitchy nonsense that exemplified this era’s music (not that this era didn’t have some jams too).

Bust out your Barry White, but remember the spectre of Kraftwerk looms, bringing in a soft machine music to ease the bumpy ride of the end of this bust, broke and bruised decade. We do like some soul in the machine don’t we? It’s the spirit of electro funk (boogie), Chicago, NY and New Jersey house/garage, when the beats and the vocals were on, and when you’d pick up that Ice Cube joint with the phat Evelyn Champane King sample.

So if Three 6 Mafia sample Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400,” T.I. uses Crystal Waters and Mary J Blige can cover Salsoul classics, then what is next, who will — as PM Dawn said back in ’91 — thank Todd Terry? Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock already did it with their “Get On The Dancefloor” smash, will the Neptunes sample Gypsymen’s “Hear The Music?” Robin Thicke’s album is a subtle indication that the next disco era is on the way and if the white house is painted black, George Clinton’s visionary funk will be in there too, the perfect fusion of butt and machine. Whoever stole the soul, can you just hand it back, we need it for a paradigm shift we’re having. Thanks!


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Random musical thoughts of a Tuesday Morning.

People often ask me, “Will you please leave me alone,” no seriously, people ask me how I can justify writing about Steve Albini one week and then the next write about top 40 r&b, punk one day and disco the next. Simple answer, step into your kitchen and take a common or garden spoon and a pot. Now turn the pot over with the bottom facing up (minds out of the sewer please) hit the bottom of the pot with the spoon. What just happened? A noise. Right, music is all just sounds and noise. There you go, now put the pot on the cooker and give me a call when dinner’s ready and I’ll be over with a cheeky bottle of wine. Ho ho, hyuh, hyuh, chortle.

 “But It’s not as easy as that there buster,” I hear you plaintively say, “because Steve Albini has a certain attitude towards the music industry and you’re betraying that stance by covering goddamn Brandy.” Firstly do not use profane language around Brandy’s name, beg for forgiveness and listen to “The Boy Is Mine” twice, and secondly I am talking about Steve Albini not through him, nor have I really conveyed how he feels about the music industry because I haven’t, as yet. talked about that at all, and Steve Albini would be the best person to do that, not me.

In reality the issue isn’t really music, the issue is an unwillingness to cave to niche marketing and internalize it as a sense of taste and then worship at its golden calf. I like music and a lot of it, a lot of soulful stuff, a lot of noisy angry stuff, a lot of bleepity, bloopity stuff that’s fun to dance to, and a lot more. It might be Gina X at 1:00PM but by 4;30 it might be The Whatnauts and by 8:00PM Dinosaur Jr. and then I’ll go to a club at 9:00PM to dj top 40 rap and R&B and some classic jams for four hours, and then come home at 3;00AM and listen to Dexter Wansel on my mp3 playing device that I shall not use the brand name of.

Am I writing about this because I think I’m special, nope, I’m writing because I know I’m not and because I’m bored senseless and listening to Dee Dee Bridgewater to give me some motivation to go out, and anyway you’ve read it, haven’t ya? And please do keep reading.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

What the fuck happened to R&B? Part Three.

I've spent the whole morning listening to Public Image Limited's Metal Box/Second Edition album, and there's more soul in that record, regardless of its bleakness, than in the entire top40  and dance charts. John Lydon and Jah Wobble are both reggae nuts, and by sounds of Wobble's basslines, there was a taste for funk too. I remember reading an old Face magazine and there was an interview with Wobble while he was in hospital and the interviewer asked him what he was listening to while he was sick and he said disco, because he found it very life affirming. Isn't that poetic? It reminds me of the spirit of the '80s, the real spirit of it, not this generic taste for the "unremembered '80s," to quote Mr. Murphy again. 

That spirit meant that you were checking out P.I.L. (you wore the button badge on yer school blazer), the Clash and  Killing Joke, but you still shimmied about to Shalamar, Chic and "Cockney Translation." Eclectic is the term that's bandied around now, a generic term in a way, but it just meant you were open to a lot of stuff and a lot of people. Four hours of '60s soul,or disco, or reggae djed by earnest young men with beards is not my idea of a good time, but it seems to be the norm in San Fran. Will the coming decade bring any respite? 

Even house music has been gutted of its soul content — though the diva driven stuff at the end of the ‘90s was getting kinda ridiculous and a lot of it was embarrassing when compared to the work of classic vocalists like Gwen Guthrie, Loleatta Holloway, Shawn Christopher and Shay Jones. Now house — US garage seems to be a dead form at this point — is being replaced by minimal techno, it ain’t techno, it’s house with all the fun bits taken out, a stiffer beat, made by dudes withs high hairlines, intelligent eye wear, stellar educations and impressive bank accounts. To me techno always had a bit of rawness to it, and when it was melodic, it was galactic in the vein of the soulful techno of Underground Resistance and Sterac.

Some questions: when will these fucking planes stop buzzing the city, it’s Fleet Week, or sheet — duck — week as I like to call it, when will someone just put on a decent night of tunes, with some able guests, and residents, who not only have the good records, but can put them together too? Preferably an eclectic night too. And if some of the the records have black girls singing on them and the lyrics can’t be construed ironically, or the records aren’t so old as your granny would be into them (too many nights listening to messy ‘60s soul sets played through tinny sound systems) that’s ok with me.

And finally, back to R&B related matters, why does a black music form have to be dead for twenty years before white, middle and upper middle class intellectuals can embrace it in its country of origin, when the same music was embraced in the UK at its time of release by people who never even finished high school? Is intellect on a twenty-year timer and does that mean people who pick up on shit later are smarter? How does this notion affect discussions on Special Ed students and slow learners? Anyone, anyone?

Put the soul back in the mix people, please! Listen to Rahsaan Patterson’s last album, Wines and Spirits and start from there. And go easy on the irony, it’s getting tired as this conservative and obvious era ramps down, finally. Soul ain’t just a genre, it’s a feeling, and it’s kinda missing at the moment. I can’t find it in Justice or in Rihanna. Where could it be?


Friday, October 10, 2008

What the fuck happened to R&B? Part Two.

In the ‘70s you had The O”Jays, Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes, James Brown at the height of his powers and a slew of other mainstream and more obscure soul artists, the ‘80s gave us D-Train, SOS Band, Soul II Soul and countless others, the ‘90s saw r&b being more integrated into rap, with artists like SWV, 112 and Mary J Blige being prolific. The early part of this decade showed some promise, but now what do we get? “Lip Gloss” by Lil Mama, well that’s rap, and it’s crap, though the video is cute I have to say, Ne-Yo (quite saccharine), Fergie (slightly r&b but very annoying) and Rihanna (not really r&b, more trying to be everything all at once, like Black Eyed Peas, thus v. annoying).

It seems that soul is gone from the mainstream for the moment, and anyway punters in top 40 joints want to hear Journey, so that they can break away from the stand/shuffle around/talk about your job/S.O./Ex ring and dance for two and a half minutes. Rap tracks like “Lollipop “ and r&b tunes like “Do It To It” by Cherish (which I like btw) also serve this purpose, and the fact that they clock in at galloping tempos like 72 and 73 beats per minute means you don’t have to exert yourself. When did pothead music become club fare?

As a dj friend of mine says, the reason why slow ass rap and r&b cuts get requested in clubs is because they are played in endless rotation on the radio and listened to in the car by people who make out on the sofa at home to Dave Matthews Band and Dido (an all round gross picture you might concur). You can’t even play a shagging album cut in the mainstream clubs now without getting looks of bewilderment.

I remember playing the Paul Oakenfold mix of Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body” — it’s a mid-tempo discoish mix with a great bassline — one night only to have some dude in a stripey man blouse ask me to, and I quote, “play something more accessible.” I told him if he could find something more accessible than Justin Timberlake that I would start a weekly petition to have him (the dude not Justin) awarded a Nobel Prize. He kinda grunted at me, he probably thought Nobel Prize was a new rapper on P Duddly’s Bad Boy Entertainment imprint.

So though I rant, all these processes, and more, have contributed to the soulless state of r&b, and then you notice underground parties playing top 40 rap — ironically of course — and you think what could be next? The ironic moustache being replaced by an ironic Kid 'n Play type flat top (don’t make me say I told you so when it happens). Even the undergound has ditched the soul and embraced the cheese.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

What the fuck happened to R&B? Part One.

I’ve been asking myself that question for quite a few years now, but I seem to be asking it more and more, each time I  go to a record store, look at the top 40 charts or listen to the radio. What the fuck indeed did happen to R&B? Because regardless of all the bubblegum gangster stuff that’s been plastered over it since the ‘90s and the level of technological advancement that’s evident in its production it has really become a strange type of pre-fabricated, doo-wopesque music form.

Like a lot of rap, it seems to be controlled from above, no longer really coming from the streets, and like rap has become easy prey for irony hungry sub-cultures that embrace any form of club music that seems corny, while shunning decent club tracks of the past or present. At the top of this decade from ’99 up til about 2003 there were some storming mainstream club tracks coming out, branded by superstar producers like The Neptunes, Timbaland and Rodney Jerkins.  A few come to mind, and in my opinion Brandy’s Full Moon album will be a future classic, revered in the same way as electro funk tunes from ’82 or ’83 are now. Supposedly the album’s sonic palette was derived from producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins’s six month sojourn in 2 Step garage dominated London while producing the Spice Girls’ last album. The whole record was very accessible yet forward looking and texturally involving. The same can be said for the late, great Aaliyah’s self-titled final album, the one that contained “Rock The Boat,” “More Than a Woman” and “Loose Rap,”

Timbaland’s work on that album and on her other material showed that he, and Missy Elliot, were not hemmed in by the imagined parameters of hip-hop/urban music, but were crafting club music, in the classic sense of the word, much as he is to this day on tracks like “Sexy Back” and “The Way I Are.” Though Aaliyah and Brandy’s songs were not as uptempo as these tunes, they were imbued with the same textural qualities. But after almost ten years of wack electro, too much cocaine, irony and black music as an antique item (the never ending nostalgia for Paradise Garage music and Boogie/electro-funk) or as a source or irony, it seems to have rubbed off on the industry and the music.

To be continued….


Sigur Rós at the Greek Theater, Berkeley, 10-3-2008

Sigur Rós are often called a post-rock band, and they were certainly out in full-on rock mode at Friday night’s show at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theater. The band performed as a four-piece (absent the string and brass players from recent tours) in a guitar-oriented configuration that allowed the band to explore the darker, prog rock-tinged aspects of its often ethereal catalog. The stage design—epic green backlighting, smoke and saturated high-contrast close-ups of instruments—perfectly set the mood; not to mention lead singer/guitarist Jónsi Birgisson’s dark-prince-from-the-future costume and tortured, spastic bowing. When rain came down late in the set, it seemed like just another part of the pageantry.

That’s not to say the lighter side of Sigur Rós didn’t make an appearance as well. An audience sing-along during the bright “Hoppípolla” where Birgisson urged everyone to sing harmonies “an octave lower if you need to” was a highlight, as were several upbeat, guitar-centered tracks from 2008’s Me_ Su_ Í Eyrum Vi_ Spilum Endalaust just before the encore, the band released a rain of confetti onto an ecstatic crowd during the celebratory “Gobbledigook,” a trial run for the actual, wetter rain. A good time was had by all, despite some puddles to jump in.


Monday, October 6, 2008

My Bloody Valentine SF 2

I know I seem like a lazy f%$! for not posting in almost a week but it’s been a busy week for me. To be honest I wanted to post about the My Bloody Valentine show that I went to last week, and it has taken me this long to really get my thoughts in a coherent fashion. The show really blew me away, and though I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the choice of the Design Center Concourse as the setting for this historic show I managed to get myself a prime spot on the right side balcony.

But, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? Basically you had a band, which hasn’t played on the American continent in almost twenty years coming on and blowing us all away. Old hands are good hands as I usually say in relation to every aspect of music. The support acts were great too, Suzanne Thorpe, an electro-acoustic flutist and composer opened with a set that, in retrospect, set the tone for My Bloody Valentine’s wall of infernally beautiful feedback near the end of their set. She added delicate flute touches to what sounded like a smooth, synthetic drone that glacially got louder through the 20 to 30 minute performance. It was hypnotizing, beautifully crafted, and really set the tone for the night.

Next up was a short set by Spectrum, headed by ex-Spacemen 3 founder Pete Kember aka Sonic Boom. They played a tight, well-received set and at this point you just kinda new that MBV were going to be killer given the quality of the two supporting acts.

And killer they were, opening with “Only Shallow” from Loveless, and closing with “You Made Me Realise,” which incorporated — in my estimation — about twenty six minutes of incredibly loud, mind melding and time stopping feedback which left the entire place (I figure there must have been close to four thousand people in the venue) transfixed. I rate this as the most surreal experienced I’ve ever had at a show or club ever! Stupendous!!!!

I was told that their set at the All Tomorrow’s Parties they curated in New York state just over two weeks ago was also similarly gobsmacking! Plus Kevin Shields chose the line up for Sunday, the last day of the festival and that included Yo La Tengo, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Mercury Rev, Bob Mould, Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie and EPMD — I know that me and my buddies in Galway in the summer of ’88 weren’t the only Irish ears vibing hard on these now rap legends.

So Kevin Shields says there’s a new album on the way, let’s hope so, ‘cos I want to see them live again, for sure!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Alexander Robotnick: smokin' disco don!

Maurizio Dami, aka Alexander Robotnick, is an Italo disco/new wave legend who is still pumping out new music, and videos like the one above. You have to hand it to Maurizio, because even though there’s a huge copy of “I Wanna Believe” by Gina and Flexix shpinning around in the background, prompting a bit of impromptu rug cuttin’ from yours truly, this does not — and I repeat does not — mean that he has to put down the cigarette and lighter that are in his left hand.

You know it, a lively get down session to some Italo classics makes you want to pull out the fags (slang on the isles for cigareets) and have a good, old puff or three. You might also notice that at 2 mins and 3 seconds the geezer with the Phantasm record has bent his cigarette, another significant risk that has been plaguing euro disco djs (and djs in other genres too) for years.

A good way to avoid this unsightly arching is to place the record on the turntable, get it in the mix, and then pull out the cancer shtick and inhale while enjoying the combined pleasure of a obscure, spinning record that you found at Community Thrift (a hallowed San Francisco used vinyl resource) for a quarter in 1994, the otherworldly sounds emanating from the aforementioned rekkid and the pleasure of the ciggy. If it’s a Newport, then it will be Newport Pleasure or it will alive with pleasure and so will you (for the moment anyways).

The previous para should in no way be construed as product placement for Newport and hi jinks aside, hats off to Mr. Robotnick. His records rule and if you’ve heard “Problemes D’Amour,” or “Dance Boy Dance” you can attest to that. He’s still making tunes and recent efforts on the Endless Flight label, which has put out records by Tensnake and the Betty Botox re-edit stuff, are worthy of further, detailed investigation. And he djs all over the shop, in Europe and in the U.S., in fact he’s playing in San Diego on October 9th I believe. So if you’re gonna make a quirky, fun and thoroughly entertaining video showing you and yer pals nerding out on yer fave tunes, l keep a box of ciggies handy, and midway into the action, get smoking,’ fuck it you could even burst into flames if you want. Does any of this make sense to anyone other than me?