Seymour Glass Interview

I knew I didn’t want the Bananafish reviews to explain the context or significance, or to describe what something sounds like, or to serve as a buyer’s guide. Any of the above might be a side effect, but it was more important to me to be worth reading more than once instead of churning out disposable cultural mediation.

bananafish-zineTower Magazines’ head buyer, Doug Biggert, used to import magazines via the department where I worked, and one day he stopped by and told me I should check out Bananafish.

It was a domestic magazine, but to me it seemed sourced from another planet. I’d read the record reviews and suddenly feel like I was coming on to a hit of acid.

In my world, that was high praise.

It still is.

If you’ve got the time, Decoder has the backstory.

And Tedium House has the back issues.

Vinyl Hit and Run

fbn114Some recent purchases:

The Durutti Column The Return of the Durutti Column (Factory Benelux LP)

The original 1980 Factory UK label edition of this LP was packaged in a sandpaper cover. Some things work so much better in concept than execution, especially when we’re talking Factory sleeve design — the jacket was very unfriendly to the neighboring records in one’s collection. This Belgian reissue is much more practical, the sandpaper portion of the package having been relegated to an insert (with ooh-worthy die-cut sleeve). This way, only the inside of the jacket bears the wrath of the grit.

The Durutti Column was Factory boss Anthony Wilson’s pet band (“it’s good music to chill out to,” Anthony-as-God chimed from on high at the conclusion of 24 Hour Party People). This ironically-titled debut was a welcome arrival from left field when it was released. Vini Reilly’s electric guitar rambled in a most pastoral fashion amid seeming acres of reverb and subdued e-percussion and the occasional tastefully-wielded drum set. The result is one of the finest instrumental albums of its era.

Return still sounds as though it was recorded (and released) in a vacuum amid the clamor of UK punk, post-punk and crappy new wave. The album proved that then-trendy UK labels could help give minimalism a good name, and it’s aged well, sounding as good or better over 25 years later. The pressing is clean, and trainspotters will rejoice in the inclusion of the Test Card 7″ single.

Blue Velvet Soundtrack LP colored vinyl

Maybe I should have been warned by the “Limited to: 5 Per Customer” caveat.

I suppose you could blame it on the limited-to-1000 blue vinyl, but the surface noise on this is simply awful. But at least the mastering is unlistenably shrill and shallow. The 1986 US CD sounds a LOT better. And when did you last hear that a 1986-issue CD sounded better than an LP?

This is one to avoid unless you’re buying it only to sell it on Discogs at a vast profit a year or two from now (let’s see those hands!). It’s a profound waste of potential, because the score is excellent, in kind of a Bernard Hermann-kind of way…and the sounds [could] bring David Lynch’s tensely weird atmospheres and kinky, often violent images to the forefront of your imagination.

If this LP’s mastering and pressing weren’t so substandard, that is.

Keith Jarrett The Koln Concert 2LP

Another major disappointment. Clear vinyl, limited to 1000. The surface noise is as bad as it is on Blue Velvet (clear vinyl usually being superior to blue or any other color; go figure), but the mastering here is…funky. And not in a good way. It sounds as though someone bumped up the low mids, and Jarrett’s emphatically dextrous left hand requires a more delicate touch on the EQ. Instead, extended muddy segments are the result — especially on (the usually revelatory) side two.

If you have a 1975-through-1980 ECM pressing of this, hang on to it, because it leaves this reissue in the dust. Honestly, guys: 180 gram means nothing if you’re pressing the album on vinyl with the quality of recycled tires. C’mon.

The Revenant score – Ryuichi Sakamoto/Alva Noto/Bryce Dessner (Milan/Regency colored vinyl 2xLP)

I ordered this from WEA US. It was 45 bucks, including media mail shipping.

The vinyl is pretty, a swirly, icy grey-blue. The pressing is awful. The first track on side one has a two-click-every-revolution scratch. The surface noise throughout both sides of both discs is horrible. The gatefold sleeve artwork is lovely, but the jacket was manufactured too tight for two albums and it’s nearly impossible to get the LPs back in the sleeve once you remove them.

WEA, of course, won’t give you your money back — they will only send you an exchange copy.

Chalk it up to experience; don’t buy colored vinyl if you care about fidelity, and definitely don’t buy it from WEA.

Janet Feder review on Part-Time Audiophile

20150330_daliophoto__DSC7602-CMy favorite recording this year was Janet Feder’s T H I S C L O S E.

Read all about it on Part-Time Audiophile.

I’ve heard this album on LP, CD, FLAC and DSD, and listened to the transcoded MP3s on an iPad. I’ve played the CD on repeat in my truck’s trusty mid-fi Rockford Fosgate system, and streamed it to my backyard patio’s cheap Polk “weather-resistant” speakers. The 5.1 SACD mix, when it arrives, will test the mettle of what passes for my home theatre system. It’ll all be good. Great, even. You don’t need an audiophile pile of hardware to appreciate Janet’s music, but if you need something new and unique to show off your fancy-pants system, this is it.

Favorites of 2015

a0328152615_10recorded:

Janet Feder T H I S C L O S E (self-released / Bandcamp) LP

Jasmine Gufford Yellow Bell (Sonic Pieces, Germany) CD

Max Richter Sleep (Deutsche Grammophon, US) FLAC

Steve Hauschildt Where All Is Fled (Kranky, US) LP

Loscil Adrift (self-released) app

Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie Travels in Constants Vol 24 (self-released / Bandcamp)

Kate Burkart Save Me A Seat (Luckystar, US/self-released) CD

Bill Nelson Quiet Bells (Sonolux, UK) CD

Bersarin Quartet III (Denovali, Germany) FLAC

Christina Vantzou No3 (Kranky, US) 2xLP

Jóhann Jóhannsson with Hildur Guðnadóttir & Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe End Of Summer (Sonic Pieces, Germany) FLAC

Ryuichi Sakamoto Left Handed Dream (MIDI, Japan) DSD (reissue)

Hans-Joachim RoedeliusTape Archive 1973-1978 (Bureau B, Germany) 3xLP + CD box

printed:

David Gessner All The Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West (W.W. Norton and Company)

B. Lynn Ingram & Frances Malamud-Roam The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow (University of California Press)

Craig Childs The Secret Knowledge of Water : Discovering the Essence of the American Desert (Back Bay Books)

Stella Beratlis Alkali Sink (Sixteen Rivers Press)

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Recent Vinyl Intake

41nx38KzFCL._SX355_Angelo Badalamenti ‎Blue Velvet (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Varèse Sarabande US – Newbury Comics blue vinyl reissue)

Robbie Basho Visions Of The Country (Gnome Life Records US reissue)

Robbie Basho Art Of The Acoustic Steel String Guitar 6 & 12 (Gnome Life Records US reissue)

Christopher Bissonnette Essays In Idleness (Kranky US)

Tom Carter Long Time Underground (Three Lobed Recordings/ Divide By Zero US)

Alessandro Cortini ‎Sonno (Hospital Productions US)

James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg Ambsace (Paradise Of Bachelors US)

Giles, Giles And Fripp The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles And Fripp (Cherry Red UK reissue)

Steve Hauschildt Where All Is Fled (Kranky US)

Keith Jarrett The Köln Concert (ECM Records US – Newbury Comics clear vinyl reissue)

Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge Full Moon (A&M US – used)

Arvo Pärt Passio (Et In Arcadia Ego/The Ajna Offensive US reissue)

Phase90 Infinitati (echospace [detroit])

Popol Vuh Letzte Tage – Letzte Nächte (Wah Wah Records Italy reissue)

Popol Vuh Das Hohelied Salomos (Wah Wah Records Italy reissue)

Red Temple Spirits Dancing To Restore An Eclipsed Moon (Mannequin US reissue)

Red Temple Spirits If Tomorrow I Where Leaving For Lhasa, I Wouldn’t Stay A Minute More… (Mannequin US reissue)

Max Richter From Sleep (Deutsche Grammophon US)

Max Richter / Vivaldi / Daniel Hope / Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin / André de Ridder Recomposed By Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons (Deutsche Grammophon US)

Arthur Russell World Of Echo (Audika US reissue)

Stars Of The Lid Stars Of The Lid And Their Refinement Of The Decline (Kranky US reissue)

Scharpling And Wurster Rock, Rot & Rule (Stereolaffs/ Flannelgraph Records US reissue)

Sun City Girls Torch Of The Mystics (Abduction US reissue)

Teeth Of The Sea A Field In England: Re-Imagined (Rocket Recordings UK)

Laurence Vanay – Laurence Vanay (Lion Productions US reissue)

Vangelis L’Apocalypse Des Animaux (Polydor Japan – used)

Christina Vantzou No3 (Kranky US)

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Kate Burkart “Save Me A Seat”

My girlfriend’s new EP went on sale last Friday.

She began recording this awhile back, and since then she’s been dealing with a lot of things: a chronic myelogenous leukemia diagnosis, changing jobs, helping her son through college, and…being my girlfriend (never an easy job).

Anyway, this one’s been a long time in the making, and hell, nobody wants to hear about the labor pains — they just want to see (or hear) the baby.

This one’s Kate’s baby, and I’m proud of her.

Here’s some links.

Bandcamp

iTunes

Amazon

Soundcloud

YouTube

kateburkart.com

Don Joyce (February 9, 1944 – July 22, 2015)

Don Joyce died last week. He was 71.

In 1980 I visited the then-nascent Greenworld Imports in Torrance, CA. I was working music retail, and dropped by Greenworld to pick an order for the Music Plus Long Beach location, where I was a buyer.

Greenworld was making a go at competing with east-coast monolith Jem Records, and importing vinyl and distributing U.S. independent labels was kind of like the wild west back then. The warehouse was little more than a smallish industrial garage space. I walked around with a little cart, depositing LPs into it.

“You need one of these,” said one of the guys.

He handed me a copy of Negativland’s self-titled first LP. The covers were handmade, with unique clip art on each jacket.

I bought three. Two for the store, and one for me.

I took the album home and played it. I played it again. And again. I liked it.

A year later I was working at Greenworld.

Seven years later: I was a confirmed Negativland fan. They’d put out three more albums. I’d moved to Sacramento. I was DJing at UC Davis’ KDVS. Negativland’s “Escape From Noise” had just been released; the band was playing a KDVS-sponsored show on campus. I hadn’t yet seen them live. I was working lights for the show, which, considering the UC Entertainment Council budget, pretty much meant I was plugging and unplugging a couple large spotlights about 20 yards from the stage as the whim struck me, doing my best to avoid being electrocuted.

Good times.

Don-Joyce-Composer-370x230Don Joyce, the newest member of Negativland, held down a substantial portion of the stage. He was seated at a large table with several broadcast cart machines in front of him, a mixer or two. He was surrounded by tall stacks of tapes.

All the sound emanating from the stage seemed to be centered around what Don was doing.

He had no sampler, or laptop. He was playing tapes (mostly spoken word, found sounds, and sound effects) the way someone would play an instrument — or mix an album — and it was masterful. From the expression on Don’s face, he might as well have been working a minimum-wage assembly line, or reading a book. But the sounds coming from his area of the stage were produced with the skill, nuance and grace of an orchestra conductor. His impassive countenance just made the scene more incongruous…and awe-inspiring.

Don didn’t play on that first Negativland album, or the second, or the third; he joined the band later after Negativland showed up at his Over The Edge show on KFPA in Berkeley sometime around 1985 (?). His showcase albums of that era were “Escape From Noise”, “Helter Stupid” and the “U2” EP. His work on the latter was so provocative that U2 sued the band for copyright infringement (Casey Kasem wasn’t too thrilled, either).

Over the past thirty years, Don was not only working with Negativland, but also doing that Over The Edge show almost every Thursday night on KPFA. The latter deserves a post (no, a book) of its own. There’s never been anything on the air like “Over The Edge.”

I met Don in 1988 at his studio (and home) in one of Oakland’s grittier neighborhoods. The place was packed with tables of old analog equipment, and smelled of years of cigarette smoke. His beloved cat, Miss Kitty, and girlfriend, Babs, were there. Don was shy. He broke the somewhat stilted mood by firing a cap gun, then waving it under his nose and inhaling the smoke. “Ahhh…” he cooed, as if enjoying the bouquet of a fine wine. Babs and I laughed. We talked about cats. He seemed as though he’d be more comfortable by himself then entertaining a fan.

I’ve thought a lot over the past couple days about Don, and why I liked what he did in the studio and onstage.

He had an enormous catalog of LPs and recordings from radio, TV, industrial training videos, and “found” audio. He coined the term culture jamming; I’m sure the ambiguity appealed to him — “jamming” as you would an undesirable radio signal, while also “jamming” as a band would.

Don had an uncanny — and seductive — knack for recontextualization. He could take any pop-culture subject matter and juxtapose snippets of sound by hand-editing them on 1/4 inch tape with a razor blade. The cuts and loops took hours to assemble. Or days. Or sometimes even weeks to put together a piece. He made the complex sound effortless. Any audio fodder, no matter how vapid, could instantly become entertaining and thought-provoking in Don’s hands.

Don Joyce was obsessed with the trappings of marketing, advertising and celebrity. He used these things against themselves, distilling the sensory bombardment of modern media and adding a subtle — yet sharply merciless — satirical edge. The result was …. well, further sensory bombardment, fortified by the “force multiplier” of absurdity.

After U2 sued Negativland, I heard Don being interviewed on All Things Considered. The host mentioned something about how confusing Negativland’s cut-up pieces could be to listen to. I recall Don reassuring the host, saying something like (I’m paraphrasing) “confusion is a healthy state of mind. It means your brain is in a discriminating mode, and firing on all cylinders.”

Considering that Don often had the TV and radio playing at the same time in his house while he worked, he was an authority on such matters.

In an era when having an attention span increasingly seemed like a liability, we needed someone like Don. And we still do, more than ever. Don spoiled us. We’ll have the Negativland albums, and the Over The Edge airchecks, and that’s good. But it’s not going to be the same without him.

Don Joyce was a curator, editor, creator, and artist. He had the wisdom to tell the difference between wheat and chaff. He knew what mattered, and what didn’t — and could separate the banal from the seemingly important … and then make the banal matter. And make it entertaining.

He knew when to go too far, and just when to stop. Only this time, he stopped too soon.

don joyce

94 degrees and 40% humidity

Yes, it’s a good day to stay inside.photo

Geek Pulse DAC – Little or No QA or QC?

After shipping it back to LH Labs last week, I heard back about my Geek Pulse X DAC today:

Repair Technician Comments:
Resistors have been added for proper boot-up
Verified Main and MCU are both up to date
Passes all tests including AP test and listening test

Resistors, after all, not really being optional.

Or perhaps I should have upgraded the unit with the “resistors” perk back in January?

LH Labs apparently let at least one unit out the door without testing it. I wonder if there’s others.

I understand it’s a busy company, with a hectic shipping schedule, and the whole wild-west crowdfunding thing.

But before a piece of electronic equipment leaves the building, it should be tested. This is an unacceptably sloppy way of manufacturing and shipping merchandise.

Recent Vinyl Intake

801 801 Live (Polydor Japan LP – used)

Arovane Ve Palor (n5MD US 2xLP)

Sibylle Baier Colour Green (Orange Twin/American Dust LP)

Biosphere Microgravity (Biophon Norway 3xLP reissue)

F.S. Blumm Lichten (Audio Dregs US LP)

Harold Budd Bandits Of Stature (Darla US LP)

The Durutti Column The Return Of The Durutti Column (Factory Benelux LP – reissue)

Harmonia & Eno ’76 – Tracks And Traces (Grönland Records Germany LP)

Mark Isham Tibet (Windham Hill US – used)

Joy Division Closer (Rhino US LP – reissue)

Kronos Quartet Plays Music By Bryce Dessner Aheym (Anti US 2xLP)

Rachel’s Handwriting (Quarterstick US LP – used)

Yoshio Suzuki Touch Of Rain (JVC/Music Interior Japan LP – used)

Townes Van Zandt High, Low And In Between (Omnviore US LP – reissue)

Townes Van Zandt Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions & Demos 1971-1972 (Omnivore US 3xLP)

Yellow Magic Orchestra YMO World Tour 1980 (Alfa Japan 3xLP – used)

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