John Stancavage 1959-2018

John passed away on August 10th. His wife posted this obituary today.

I knew John mainly through his posts at Part-Time Audiophile and periodic updates on his Facebook page. I admired his writing and the strength he showed while dealing with multiple serious health problems — ones that would have set anyone else back on their heels. But not John.

We can take a certain amount of consolation in the grace, dignity and good humor with and through which he navigated his difficult last few years.

We need more like him and I hope his life and words inspire others. I know they inspire me.

Brian Eno “Music For Installations” 9LP box set on Part-Time Audiophile

I experienced a sighting of a massive new Eno object (perhaps it was all just a dream), and a transcript of my debriefing is now up on Part-Time Audiophile.

Taylor Deupree / K. Leimer / Pod Tune

Taylor Deupree Fallen

This one has has landed squarely in my best-of-2018 list. Why? Why not: minimal piano interludes are glazed with filtered reverb and stretched over a luscious space that’ll entice fans of Harold Budd’s higher-altitude flights. Sometimes there’s a bit more glitch than I’d ordinarily prefer, but Deupree’s measured (yet sometimes untethered) aesthetic and tastefully entrancing use of repetition more than validates the result.

This is music for fog and dusk, for mist and melancholy. It’s alternately ghostly and lovely, often at the same time, and is the most perfect background music I’ve heard in ages… but it also stands up to close examination, if you’re into that sort of thing.

K. Leimer Mitteltöner

(Full disclosure: I was the distributor label manager for Kerry Leimer’s Palace of Lights label until January of this year. I was not on the Palace of Lights payroll then or now).

Mr. Leimer has been quietly releasing music on his Palace of Lights label since the early 80s. A series of reissues and new releases on PoL and a well-received compilation of previously-unreleased archive material on RVNG over the past four years has inspired renewed (and new) interest in Leimer’s work, past and present. Mitteltöner is his first release on the Origin Peoples label and it presents material he’s been working on over the past couple years.

The approach here is more rhythmic than most of Leimer’s output. Where before there was drift and ether, now there is added drive; the pace is faster and more focused. The tracks aren’t really songs, per se; they’re of the tone-poem realm where mood and momentum and vibe are as important as any narrative journey. There’s propulsive krautrock / kosmiche homages here, sure, but, while the phrase “a toe-tapping experience” might not’ve been inappropriate in describing some of Kerry’s past work, this new one is actually relatively catchy — without sacrificing any aspect of his characteristic explorative inclinations.

Some of the more gleaming excursions have a certain similar feel to David Byrne’s Songs from the Catherine Wheel period, and some of the incidental effects and synth motifs might similarly engage fans of Brian Eno’s Music For Films work. I can’t deny that “German Defaults” and “London Interiors”, in particular, provoked pleasant flashbacks to Eno’s “R.A.F.” single.

This album sounds wonderful on headphones, but to benefit from the full effect of Leimer’s instrumentation and mixes, also listen to it (preferably the vinyl) on speakers — at moderate (or, hell, high) volume. A track such as “As Long Ago As This”, especially, shines distinctly in the space of a room.

Among much stellar material, the two closers are my favorites: “Berlin Preset” and “Low Lustre”. These two make for great driving music. Mitteltöner would not be out of place in your vehicle (or your home, for that matter); one or two listens and you’ll discover it to be a noble companion for journeys both within and without the home.

Various Artists Pod Tune

This 2017 release benefits several marine charities, including The Whalesong Project and Ocean Alliance.

When I think of whales and music, I think of the intro Kate Bush’s “Moving”. That’s not far off, except the music on Pod Tunes is mostly ambient or experimental.

The concept: electronic musicians donate a new track that incorporates whale sounds. Featured artists include Christina Vantzou, Scott Morgan (Loscil), William Basinski, Mikael Jorgensen (Wilco), Jacob Kirkegaard There are separate downloadable versions of the release. The CD and LP are out of print, but obtainable via Discogs and Amazon, as well as a 14-track version on iTunes.

This really is a lovely album on several levels, and would be worth your time even if it wasn’t a benefit.

“How Radio Isn’t Done”

My admiration, affection and respect for the work of Don Joyce has been documented here, so I won’t go into further detail about the worth of what he accomplished before he passed away in 2015.

There’s a new documentary out that honors Don Joyce’s Over The Edge and work with Negativland. It’s called How Radio Isn’t Done and can be streamed for 99 cents on Amazon and Vimeo.

I enjoyed it very much (well, not very much. The final 30 minutes are heartbreaking). The interview segments with Don and members of Negativland are illuminating and touching. The only thing I would’ve changed are the animated waveform overlays that accompanied many of the Over The Edge audio clips during the first half; the visuals were inordinately distracting. I found it helpful to close my eyes during those segments of the film.

Joyce’s hermitic life might seem insular to the uninitiated. But the legacy of Over The Edge belies any such characterization. His work drew people in and engaged them — both in terms of audience participation, and his uniquely focused efforts to embrace and push radio to and beyond its highest potential.

I hope Don will be remembered not as a reclusive eccentric, but for what he accomplished in the realm of satire, art and entertainment.

You can browse, search, stream and download an overwhelming archive of Over The Edge episodes on archive.org

Goodbye, Russ

I first met Russ Solomon in West Sacramento’s Tower complex in 1984. I’d been working at the company’s TRIP division for a month or two as the chain’s import and indie buyer. Russ’s office was just across the parking lot. My boss, Earl, was married to Frannie, who was Russ’s right-hand woman.

When walking into Frannie’s reception area, the first thing you’d notice was a long wall covered with large framed glass cases. They were full of neckties with business cards clipped to them.

The common element among the ties was they all bore the mark of having been sheared off.

L.A. music biz types would arrive wearing suits and ties for meetings. Russ would greet them — wielding a large pair of scissors. “We do things a little differently here,” he’d intone, smiling.

It became a rite of passage to visit Russ and have your tie cut off.

Welcome to West Sacramento. The hippies had take over the asylum. This particular institution was music retail, and Russ reigned over the realm with an irrepressible sense of humor and a reckless (and refreshing) entrepreneurial spirit.

Russ didn’t manage his company so much as turn it loose. He had his hatchet men, sure. A couple of them appeared in that documentary a couple years back (a fun film and a worthy watch, if you haven’t seen it). But you could always talk to him. His door was always open. Actually, his office, a huge corner space packed with LPs, CDs, books, cool art and ever-present bottles of wine, didn’t even have a door.

I never thought of him as a boss. We’d have informal meetings and he’d call me “kid.”

“Don’t fight me on this one, kid.”

Or, more often:

“I know you’ll get it done. Have fun out there. Go get ’em, kid”.

When I left the company in 1993, the new management at my division was likely thinking “good riddance.” I walked across the street, looked Russ in the eye, and handed him my resignation letter. He looked pained.

“I wish you wouldn’t.”

“I can’t work with the new guy over there.”

He brightened for a second, and smiled.

“Tell him to fuck off!”

I shook my head, shook his hand, and thanked him. It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. He was gracious. It was the last time I saw him.

I left after Tower peaked, and around the time the company was coming to the realization it had expanded too fast, opened too many stores, borrowed too much money, and was competing against the likes of Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Best Buy. CD burners, the internet and Napster were lurking just around the corner.

The company hung on until 2006. After Tower’s liquidation, Russ remained a presence in Sacramento, and, even throughout the tumult, disruption and catharsis that wracked music retail, his reputation among colleagues, competitors and former employees didn’t fade.

The word “maverick” gets thrown around a lot, but Russ earned the distinction — with innovation, integrity, dignity and hard work.

I have never encountered another person so widely respected, inside the music business or otherwise.

Russ died on March 4th while watching the Oscars. He was 92.

(and I find some solace in believing that, perhaps, he and I were expressing scorn and pity for Nicole Kidman’s dress at the same time).

So goodbye, Russ. And thank you.

Thank you for the fun years. Thank you for employing my otherwise-unemployable self and thank you for making me and so many other employees feel relevant. And necessary. And part of something exceptional.

Most of all, thank you for making Sacramento — and music retail — a good time for so long, and for so many.

Yo, Old School

Hey, the new Audio Advisor catalog arrived today! And guess what, kids? They’re still treating women like furniture in their photo layouts. It’s like the last fifty years never happened!

Recent Vinyl Intake

Joseph Allred Fire & Earth (Scissor Tail Records US) LP

Blind Owl Wilson (self-titled) (Sutro Park US) LP (reissue)

Cosey Fanni Tutti Time To Tell (Conspiracy International UK) (clear vinyl) LP (reissue)

Julee Cruise Floating Into The Night (Music On Vinyl Netherlands) LP (reissue)

CV & Jab – Zin Taylor Thoughts of a Dot as it Travels a Surface (Shelter Press France) LP

Natalie Hemby Puxico (GetWrucke Productions US) LP

Jóhann Jóhannsson IBM 1401, A User’s Manual (4AD UK) 2xLP (reissue)

K. Leimer Imposed Order/Imposed Absence (Palace of Lights US) LP (reissue)

K. Leimer Mittletöner (Origin Peoples US) LP

Paris, Texas soundtrack (Ry Cooder) Real Gone Records (clear vinyl) LP (reissue)

Residents The Snakey Wake (Secret Records US) LP (reissue)

Residents featuring Snakefinger 13th Anniversary Show Live In Holland (Secret Records US) (clear/yellow splash vinyl) 2xLP (reissue)

Jack Rose Kensington Blues (VHF US) LP (reissue)

Jack Rose Opium Musick (VHF US) LP (reissue)

Jack Rose Red Horse, White Mule (VHF US) LP (reissue)

Stars Of The Lid Gravitational Pull Vs The Desire For An Aquatic Life (Kranky US) LP (reissue)

Wes Tirey Black Wind (Scissor Tail Records US) LP

Lee Ann Womack The Lonely, The Lonesome and the Gone (ATO Records US) 2xLP

World Of Pooh The Land of Thirst (Starlight Furniture Co.) LP (reissue)

CV & Jab – Zin Taylor “Thoughts of a Dot as it Travels a Surface”

My respect and admiration for the works of Christina Vantzou have been documented elsewhere, so I won’t rant in detail once more about the quality of her work. I’ll just say I was excited to hear of a new project.

On Thoughts of a Dot as it Travels a Surface, Vantzou is paired with Forma member John Also Bennett. This instrumental album is the result of visual inspiration from artist Zin Taylor, whose huge mural was the backdrop — literally and figuratively. It was mixed down from a live performance at an installation in Germany last year, and, after listening to the album frequently over the past couple weeks, I’m not disappointed.

Thoughts is much more left-field and freeform than Vantzou’s solo work and more minimal than Forma’s Physicalist Kranky debut. At first listen, the dueling-laptop setup can come across as a prone to pastiche, but things cohere as the work progresses. The album begins with some Subotnick-y blips and sampled voices on “Cactus with Vent”. Along the way we’re treated to various flavors of Vantzou’s digital output and Bennett’s more analog styles, including some of the latter’s grand piano playing echoing through Harold Budd-esque reverb algorithms.

There are ghostly wails. There are moody, meandering, looming synths. There are sampled natural sounds. Intermittently evident in Vantzou’s contributions are threads of Vangelis’s sound design and general ambience on the original Blade Runner score, a work of which Vantzou is apparently (and justifiably) enamored.

Thoughts of a Dot isn’t going to liven up your next dinner party. I find that, like much of my favorite music, this one sounds best with the lights off, late at night. The atmospheres are varied and deep, and will please patient listeners predisposed to eerie electronics — and likely creep out those who aren’t. It works as a long-form conceptual piece and is paced well, considering the experimental content. But the individual tracks stand on their own, too. Those who’ve missed Vantzou’s work since 2015’s No3 will probably treat it as a teasing and pleasing bridge to her next solo album. I know I will.

The download and physical forms are available semi-directly from the the Shelter Press label’s Bandcamp page and/or directly from the label’s own storefront. Vinyl and the like will be most available to US customers via Forced Exposure, while EU and rest-of-the-world listeners will likely find Boomkat more convenient.

Kate Burkart “Moonlight” (Blaze Foley cover)

Ever since my sweetheart Kate covered this song live at a Blaze Foley tribute she put together in 2011, I’ve been nagging her — lovingly, of course — to go in to the studio and record it.

She finally did so last year, and I imposed myself further by giving her production notes throughout the recording and, ultimately, insisting that I be permitted to “help out” with the final mix. Call me svengali.

But despite my, um, best efforts, this isn’t about me. I’m proud of Kate. She done Blaze good.

It’s on iTunes and Apple Music and Spotify and Soundcloud and all the usual digital outlets. If you’re old-school and require an actual download, this Bandcamp one is the way to go.

Most Listenable (and Watchable) of 2017

‘Tis the season for year-end lists! The contributors at Part-Time Audiophile couldn’t resist, and this is the result.

Mine:

Lee Ann Womack “The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone” LP
In Pursuit Of Silence DVD
Slow Meadow “Costero” LP
St. Vincent “Masseduction” LP
Midori Takada “Through The Looking Glass” reissue LP

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