As you probably noticed, we've adjusted our email schedule for the Thanksgiving holiday. We are sending the Other Music Download newsletter out today, and this week we will be pre-empting Wednesday night's Other Music Update. CD/LP customers can still find lots of new arrivals on our website, including releases from Susanna (of the Magical Orchestra), Fennesz, a J Spaceman and Matthew Shipp collaboration, the new solo album from Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor, a great reissue of rare Chilean psych rock from Sacros, and a Soul Jazz compilation of Dancehall music, all listed on the mail order site's home page. Have a great holiday!
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Other Music Radio Welcomes Dial Records' Peter Kersten
Last week, Dial Records founder Peter Kersten was in town to perform a live show at Bar 13, and he also came by the East Village Radio studios to tape a special pre-recorded show for Other Music with host Scott Mou. Peter played selections from new and upcoming Dial releases (including his own projects, Sten and Lawrence), an exclusive broadcast of a live improvisation he performed recently at a university in Marseille, France, and tracks by personal favorites like Moondog, Prefab Sprout, and Linda Perhacs. If you missed the broadcast when it first aired yesterday afternoon, the show is archived and will be available for streaming off of East Village Radio through to next Monday:
Tune in to Other Music on East Village Radio, every Monday, from 4 to 6PM.
This Week's Free Song Download
We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
Arts & Crafts
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Free song download of "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed," the title track off the new album from Los Campesinos!, also available on OM-D. Produced by John Goodmanson (Blonde Redhead, Sleater-Kinney), the prolific Welsh septet's latest record is more polished than their debut full-length, Hold on Now, Youngster, with more guitar squall and a bit less glockenspiel and violin in the mix. But the music is frenetic as always, and with a little more angst in the band's uber-personal odes. No sophomore slumping for these kids!
This Week's Featured Downloads
Transportation / Dimension
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Music made by kids tends to fall into two distinct categories -- the patently unlistenable and the unusually appealing. In their wisdom, the fantastic Numero label managed to drum up a compilation of some of the highlights of the latter category, but there's plenty more out there just waiting to be discovered. Chandra Oppenheim was only twelve years old when she made these tracks, with a hip artist dad the precocious pre-teen was exposed to some pretty strange music -- post-punk and disco being the styles which clearly stuck. Aided by underground post-punkers the Dance (a/k/a Model Citizens), Chandra proceeded to knock together some of the most singularly "outsider" pieces of disco music committed to tape. The Farfisa organ bleats distinctively in the background as Chandra asserts her uppity twelve-year-old presence with an affirmed confidence rarely heard in the disillusioned drawl of most punkers. The original EP, Transportation was released on the Dance's own label in 1980 and granted its child star an instant ticket to fame -- with club appearances coming thick and fast and international press beckoning.
Eventually the idea was chanced upon that Chandra could front a band made up of similarly aged musicians -- a genuine teen post-punk act. The Chandra Dimension were the six-piece to emerge and together this rag-tag band of kids recorded another EP entitled Dimension which is included on this release for the first time. At the time, Chandra Oppenheim decided probably wisely that the rock-star life was not for her, and Dimension was shelved to allow her to get on with her life.
In the time since, her name has become somewhat legendary in the scene and it's a revelation to hear all the tracks here in one place, finally. There's something mischievous about the music, but it's not the sugared pop you might expect to come from a band of kids -- this is the precursor to Be Your Own Pet, all attitude and teenage smarts. Tracks like "Stranger" don't even sound dated -- I wouldn't be surprised if it dribbled into the Pitchfork-hyped spotlight on some Brookyln tape label or other, it's got that authenticity to it, that spunk. Either way, the music stands as a testament to Chandra and her producers' musical vision, and as a perfect time capsule of the early-'80s post-punk sound, albeit heard through younger, more innocent ears. A huge recommendation.
The Guinea Years
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Miriam Makeba, who passed away earlier this month, led an extraordinary life that I don't have the space to fully encapsulate here, but the recordings presently under review stem from of one of the most interesting and artistically fruitful chapters in her career. You can always find a handful of her albums in any world music bin at any record store across the country, but you're not likely to have ever heard her like this. Briefly, in 1968, South African-born Makeba was an international star who had been banned from her country for speaking out against apartheid. She was given asylum in the United States where she eventually met and married the controversial civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael. As political and professional pressure developed against the two in the US for their alleged radical views, they were extended an offer to come live in the West African nation of Guinea by its President, Sekou Toure, who had helped win Guinean independence from France several years earlier; he subsequently implemented a comprehensive nativist arts program to rid the country of any lingering French influence. Despite being later revealed as a horrible autocrat, Toure's largess is nevertheless partly responsible for some of the greatest dance bands to ever come out of Africa; Bembeya Jazz National, Keletigui et ses Tambourinis, and Balla et ses Balladins, amongst countless others, were all government funded. Makeba stepped into this incredibly fertile scene as it was reaching its artistic zenith; she had access to the players, the studio, the label (Syliphone), and it is no surprise that the music that resulted is amongst the greatest that she ever cut. The arrangements are ingenious, with the white-hot playing of the Guinean musicians perfectly complementing Makeba as she sings across a wide range of styles, and no less than eight different languages!
What's Your Rupture?
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San Francisco trio Nodzzz are, if not anything else, straight to the point. At 16 minutes and 10 songs, they have crafted a not-so-full-length album for Brooklyn's own What's Your Rupture? label that you can spend hours with; the songs are just right: basic, catchy and without any pretension. A more distilled version of Tyvek -- all the fun, but without some of the fuzz -- Nodzzz churn out rickety, unadulterated pop tunes that are infused with a lotta energy and a fresh garage edge. Think Jonathan Richman funneled through a punk aesthetic a la Television Personalities when you hear the band tackle both leisurely-paced songs ("In the City") with the same bright, clean and effortless ease that characterize the jauntier tracks like opener "Is She There." If you need a more current frame of reference, they're in step with, if not a step ahead of, bands like Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Cause Co-Motion. Summed up, A-side ender "Controlled Karaoke" exemplifies everything right about Nodzzz: they're silly, they're sharp, they're nerdy, they're noisy, they're heavy-handed at times and, of course, they're also first-rate.
Brother on the Run
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The unsung genius of Johnny Pate has been well-documented by renowned journalists and writers more prestigious and better versed than I. But for those who are unfamiliar, here's a brief synopsis. A conductor and jazz arranger, Pate was responsible for the unique and sophisticated sound of Chicago soul in the '60s and '70s. He was the arranger for all of the early Impressions recordings and served the same duty in the '70s for Curtis Mayfield's Curtum label. He was a major influence on Charles Stephney and produced a ton of Northern soul classics by the Tams, Major Lance and Walter Jackson, just to name a few. In short, Pate's elegant string and brass arrangements were the oil of the silky-smooth sounds that came out of the Windy City.
So when the blaxploitation boom hit in the early '70s, it makes sense that Pate's grand, soulful music would be tailor-made for the films. Brother on the Run is one of the earliest soundtracks of that genre, and it's a great one. Where Isaac Hayes was straight-up funk and stabs, Pate was a bit more John Barry/Henry Mancini with his funk. The instrumental opening title track is a simmering, brass-led groove that could've been a Goldfinger interlude if not for the incessant wah-wah guitars and congas chugging it along. The actual theme song is an extraordinary funky tune that boasts a great vocal turn from a Donnie Hathaway sound-alike. "Auto Chase" and "Car Bumps" are great percussive interludes boastin' melody lines that Pate would utilize two years later for his Shaft in Africa score, which would be used in original, old-skool hip-hop breaks, and more recently be sampled by Jay-Z and Nas. All in all, Brother on the Run is a great soundtrack and for the unfamiliar, an awesome introduction to the genius of Johnny Pate.
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Furthering Anticon's continual move away from all things even slightly related to hip-hop is the latest record from duo Anathallo. Made up of Matt Joynt and Erica Froman, the two twist and turn their way through a diverse collection of modern post-rock flecked pop and add weight to their label's growing catalog. The post-everything ideal has been floating around Anticon for some time now, but Canopy Glow sums it up aptly with a blend of unusual instrumentation (hand bells, anyone?) and gorgeous cascading vocal harmonies. At times I'm reminded of Sufjan Stevens and at other times Low, but the most obvious comparison here would be Leaf's Danish troubadours Efterklang. The similarity is uncanny in many places, with Anathallo coming across like an American mirror of the Scandinavian troupe, but luckily the duo do what they do well enough to avoid undue criticism. The blend of overwhelmingly electronic production combined with a plethora of "real instruments" has been seen before on the label, most notably on 13+God's stunning debut, and Anticon show no signs of letting up on their quest to find the finest purveyors in the genre. Here Joynt and Froman show a deft hand with both the electronic elements (percussion, most obviously) and the incredible range of instruments at their disposal, from horns and violins to glockenspiels and the trusty guitar. Occasionally we even dip into near pop-rock ("Cafetorium") and you could be forgiven for thinking that some day the band could cross over into the mainstream. Sterling stuff.
Canção do Amor Demais
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Moody and mysterious album of early bossa nova, circa 1958, from the heavenly voiced Elizete Cardosa. It's a landmark record actually, as this was the first to feature maestro Joao Gilberto's genre defining guitar beat, which caused a total revolution in Brazilian song. It also doesn't hurt that all of its magnificent tunes were written by Vinicius de Moraes and Antonio Carlos Jobim! Its languorous pleasures are truly sublime, and even if you looked up "saudade" in the dictionary you wouldn't know what it means until you immerse yourself in Canção do Amor Demais' immeasurable charms. Stunning.
I'm in Love with a German Film Star
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UK visual artist Sam Taylor-Wood takes on a new medium with this Kompakt released single. Having a long working relationship with the Pet Shop Boys, directing the film for their Somewhere concerts and even singing on their renditions of "Je t'aime... moi non plus," and "Love to Love You Baby," Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe return the favor, producing her single, a cover of the Passions' "I'm in Love with a German Film Star." The first striking thing about Taylor-Wood's version of this classic post-punk song is how the guitars are swapped out with synths, and the simple stark rhythm of the original is replaced with a laptop beat. I've always felt like the point of this song is fantasy -- the Passions' Barbara Gogan's vocals sounded as though she was there in body, but singing with her mind somewhere else. In contrast, Taylor-Wood ups the provocative charm several notches, which is especially apparent at the end of the "PSB Symphonic Mix" and also Gui Borrato's reworking, where she takes a cue from Serge Gainsbourg's muses and Donna Summer, sighing and moaning in ecstasy.
Modern Mandolin Maestro
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Astounding South Indian ragas by former child prodigy U Srinivas, who was a mere twenty-one years old at the time of this recording. His instrument of choice is highly unusual, an adapted six-string electric mandolin that somehow possesses a most heavenly tone, which he wields with a fleet dexterity that nearly beggars belief. Most of the tracks here are relatively short for ragas, but Srinivas apparently needed little warming up, as he's bending notes at breakneck speeds in no time, yet never sacrificing a very soulful sensitivity. I don't care how much South Indian classical music you've experienced, you've most likely never heard it like this, a totally unique approach still rooted in a centuries old tradition. An incredibly great recording that is definitely for fans of players of virtuosic string instruments, from Debashish Bhattacharya, to Hamza El Din, to Sandy Bull or John Fahey.
We Are the Levitts
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It's nice to see one of my fave ESP discs reissued digitally for the masses. The late '60s and early '70s were filled with popular singing family sensations like the Cowsills, Jackson 5 and the Staple Singers, and the Levitts could be considered Greenwich Village's bohemian answer to those groups. The catalyst for the band was 13-year-old guitarist Sean Levitt, who was discovered playing jazz guitar in Central Park by the ESP label heads. While auditioning, Sean casually mentioned his musical family -- his accomplished jazz drummer father, his mother a singer, and five other siblings who sang as well. The album to come would be a family affair, with respected players like Chick Corea, Larry Provost and many others along for the ride.
We Are... has the same sort of bright, hazy positivity of Free Design or Sound of Feeling, but there's also a raw, post-bop and modal jazz influence that pervades throughout the Levitts' music (e.g. "The Saints of My City Are Children," "Notes So High"). Throughout the album, mama Stella Levitt's slightly stoned, primitive, jazz-scat singing gives the material an earthier, poppier feel than you might expect from an ESP release. Other album highlights include "Candy," which is a killer piece of '60s art-pop that sounds like bubblegum Velvet Underground or a hippiefied Beat Happening, and "Fun City," an odd, catchy sing-a-long ode to NYC's "smoke-ins and toke-ins" which strangely enough feature the young Levitts children singing back-up.
Sean Levitt would go on to become a highly respected jazz guitarist in adulthood and it's pretty cool to hear how focused and talented he was at an early age. Fans of B-Music releases, singing families, outsider pop and all of the aforementioned should find a lot here to brighten up their days.