Posts Tagged ‘Music Tapes’

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Define A Transparent Dream

The Olivia Tremor Control and The Music Tapes at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s not especially unusual for bands active in the ’90s to be doing the reunion thing these days – it’s more unusual when a band who had any kind of following 15 to 20 years ago to NOT at least feel out the market for a comeback – but an extra degree of excitement is warranted when you’re talking about the Elephant 6 collective. Now granted, when you’re talking about a scene as broad and loose as E6 was/is, it can be argued that it never went away and sure, Of Montreal and Elf Power and myriad side-projects and less high-profile acts with ties to the scene continue on – albeit without the curly “E6” logo on their releases – but most of the first wave of bands who emerged from that generation of Athens, Georgia bands faded into myth before the end of the last century with really, only Robert Schneider’s Apples In Stereo continuing to plug along.

And while most of the attention in 2011 has surrounded the return of Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum from the wilderness to the stage, by rights there should be a comparable amount of buzz around The Olivia Tremor Control’s return to touring. The melding of experimental found soundscapes and indelible pop classicism of their two albums Dusk At Cubist Castle and Black Foliage are basically a clinic on creating a unique and vivid world out of just sound and how to bend one’s mind with melodic hooks. It’s unequivocally great stuff and on Friday night, it came to Toronto for the first time in who knows how long (six months if you count the OTC-heavy Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise tour that came through in March, but for argument’s sake let’s not).

Opening up was Elephant 6 stalwart Julian Koster, who since the disbandment of Neutral Milk Hotel has been operating as The Music Tapes. I’d never seen him before, but reports of his highly-developed sense of whimsy were widespread and happily accurate. His stage setup involved as much thrift store trinkets and gewgaws as musical instruments, and between he and his two bandmates, there were a lot of instruments with Koster focusing on the singing saw and bowed banjo. Songs were offered in about equal quantity as stories and skits and sometimes the two were one and the same, as with their marching band expedition into the audience. It was all wholly entertaining – you didn’t notice the hour go by – and it was nice to realize that for all the stuff going on around the songs, the band were talented musicians and arrangers. And as for the stories about the carnival performers pulling cities out of their mouths or the great uncle who turned his shadow into an elephant – I don’t expect that there was any truth to them but oh I wish there was.

Much of The Music Tapes stage clutter was cleared out before The Olivia Tremor Control took over, but it seemed that every piece of set dressing that was removed was replaced by a musician. Though it’s Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart who are the key figures in that band, they numbered eight and sometimes nine, including two-thirds of The Music Tapes and Scott Spillane of The Gerbils (which also made for half of Neutral Milk Hotel, but the E6 family tree is really more of a wreath and not worth dwelling on).

As implied earlier, listening to Olivia Tremor Control records is an immersive and occasionally disorienting experience, though generally in a good way. I can now say with first-hand knowledge that the live show does a pretty good job of reproducing this. It probably would have been relatively easy to extract the proper songs from their recordings and perform them as such without complaint from their fans, but it wouldn’t really be Olivia Tremor Control without that anarchy, would it? Accordingly, their 100-minute set was like a primordial soup of sound created by a pawnshop orchestra – guitars, keys, samples, clarinets, saw, percussion – from which they would pull out both beauty and chaos – sometimes at the same time – with only occasional breaks for tuning, drinks or chatter. It wasn’t always tight or pretty but if they wobbled a bit on the straightaways, they took the corners like a pro and nailed every key hook and those Doss-Hart harmonies – when not occasionally lost in the mix – sounded glorious.

It’s funny, as happy as I was to see and hear OTC live, they weren’t one of the bands that I’d always held out hope would get back together and take it on the road. I attribute that to the fact that their records were such fully-formed worlds unto themselves that the idea that these songs might exist in the real world, outside of the context of those albums, was like trying to imagine cartoon characters as flesh and blood. Yet here they were, sounding great and playing with a sort of chemistry that made the fact that they hadn’t performed regularly as a unit in so many years hard to believe. That the band is working on new material – NPR premiered the first new OTC song in over a decade a little while back – is good news for all, and maybe we’ll start seeing that E6 logo on some records again.

Exclaim also has a review of the show.

Photos: The Olivia Tremor Control, The Music Tapes @ Lee’s Palace – September 16, 2011
MP3: The Olivia Tremor Control – “Hideaway” (live in Athens, GA – April 15, 2005)
MP3: The Olivia Tremor Control – “NYC-25” (live in Athens, GA – April 15, 2005)
MP3: The Olivia Tremor Contro – “Jumping Fences” (live in Athens, GA – April 15, 2005)
MP3: The Music Tapes – “Majesty”
Video: The Music Tapes – “Majesty”
Video: The Music Tapes – “For The Planet Pluto”
Video: The Music Tapes – “The Minister Of Longitude”

A couple of unreleased Neutral Milk Hotel songs which will be appearing on that box set that is being released on November 22 is available to stream.

Stream: Neutral Milk Hotel – “Little Birds (Unfinished version 2)”

Magnet talks Obscurities with Stephin Merritt.

Sigur Ros have finalized details on the release of their live Inni film/album; it’ll be out on November 8 and be available in either double-CD or triple-LP formats, the former coming with the option of DVD or Blu-Ray and the latter only with DVD, or digitally-only if that’s your thing. There’s also a super-fancy limited edition box set which you can read about at Exclaim. One of the live tracks is available to download and Toronto screenings of the film begin October 28 at the TIFF Lightbox.

MP3: Sigur Ros – “Festival” (live)

The Line Of Best Fit chats with Barry Burns of Mogwai.

Emmy The Great has released a second video from her second album Virtue.

Video: Emmy The Great – “Paper Forest (In The Afterglow Of Rapture)”

Also with a new video are Arctic Monkeys, for the title track of Suck It And See.

Video: Arctic Monkeys – “Suck It And See”

And Manic Street Preachers have a clip for the single off their forthcoming best-of collection National Treasures, out October 31 – it’s a The The cover.

Video: Manic Street Preachers – “This Is The Day”

The Von Pip Musical Express reviews Ladytron’s latest Gravity The Seducer and talks to vocalist/keyboardist Helen Marnie about it while The San Francisco Chronicle talks to Reuben Wu. They’re at The Phoenix on November 5.

Arcade 44 talks to Greg Hughes of Still Corners. Creatures Of An Hour is out October 11 and they play The Drake Underground on October 25.

Clash lists off ten things you didn’t know about Damon Albarn.

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Yesterday's World

Elephant 6 collective to tour North America yelling, “surprise!”

Photo via Ground ControlGround ControlSo maybe some of you heard that Jeff Mangum, that guy who used to be in that one band, played a surprise show of Neutral Milk Hotel tunes to a Brooklyn crowd of about 75 this past weekend (MP3s or it didn’t happen). And while that’s a pretty cool thing in and of itself, not to mention giving those in attendance bragging rights in certain circles for the rest of their lives, that it happened just before word that the Elephant 6 collective of which the Neutral Milk was a founding member was planning a big Spring touring to-do was… interesting. Not implying anything untoward, simply observing that if it was a coincidence, it was a well-timed one.

Said to-do is the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour, which was first rolled out at about this time of the year in 2008 by former Neutral Milk Hotelier, current Music Tapes leader and all-around Christmas fan Julian Koster. It consisted of a massive and random group of Elephant 6 alumni past and present, including members of Apples In Stereo, Elf Power, Circulatory System, Olivia Tremor Control amongst others – which is to say about 1/10 the population of Athens, Georgia – who trekked about performing holiday songs and each others’ compositions and generally celebrating the spirit of pop, psychedelia and community that informed the movement back in their heyday of the mid-’90s. And apparently they had such a good time of it, they’re doing it again.

The details on the who and the what are unclear as of yet – Koster will certainly be driving it again, covering much of the same terrain as his ongoing Lullabye Tour – but the itinerary is up, showing dates across North America running from late February through the end of March. You know, exactly when there aren’t any real holidays. Unlike the original Holiday Tour, this one includes a Toronto stop on March 18 at the Horseshoe, which is great for those of us who will be hundreds of miles away at SxSW at the time (that’s not a plea for sympathy, just statement of fact), particularly since none of Elf Power, Circulatory System or the reunited Olivia Tremor Control have come up this way in forever. But it is what it is and what it should be is an excitingly unpredictable treat for fans and you can bet no one is forgetting that Mangum made appearances at some of those shows in 2008… Will he be along this time out? Maybe he just needs to get re-accustomed to playing live OH WAIT.

The AV Club talked to Koster about the tour back in the Fall of 2008 while NPR has audio from the Chicago stop of that tour – all two and a half hours of it.

MP3: Music Tapes – “Majesty”
MP3: Neutral Milk Hotel – “Holland 1945”
MP3: The Apples In Stereo – “Benefits Of Lying With Your Friend”
MP3: Elf Power – “Stranger In The Window”
MP3: Circulatory System – “Yesterday’s World”
MP3: Circulatory System – “Now”

It’s understandable if you thought that The Wooden Sky’s show at Lee’s back at the start of November was their last local hurrah for the year, but they’ve got one more engagement on the calendar – an intimate December 19 show at the Music Gallery with Philadelphia’s Strand Of Oaks. It’s an all-ages gig, tickets $25 and all proceeds going to the Daily Bread Food Bank.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Something Hiding For Us In The Night”
MP3: Strand Of Oaks – “Bonfire”

The double-bill of one-man act Wild Nothing and many-man band Abe Vigoda have made a date at Wrongbar on February 17, full dates of the tour available at Pitchfork.

MP3: Wild Nothing – “Golden Haze”
MP3: Abe Vigoda – “Throwing Shade”

Akron/Family will follow up the February 8 release of S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT with a date at The Horseshoe on February 20. And if you haven’t read the background on the record, Consequence Of Sound has details… which sound mental.

MP3: Akron/Family – “River”

The Low Anthem, who are readying their Smart Flesh for a February 22 release, have made a date at The Great Hall for March 2 – tickets $17.50 in advance. You can grab the first MP3 from said record in exchange for your email at their website.

Clash talks to LCD Soundsystem main man James Murphy.

Drowned In Sound interviews Britt Daniel and Eric Harvey of Spoon.

Exclaim has details on the long-awaited second Rural Alberta Advantage record. Departing will be out on March 1 and you can expect to hear at least some of it at their sold-out Lee’s Palace show next Thursday, December 16.

Daytrotter’s recent sojourn to Pop Montreal has yielded sessions with Karkwa and also with Diamond Rings. Karkwa are at Lee’s Palace on March 5.

Monday has a feature on Dan Mangan.

The Guardian, Winnipeg Free Press and Pitchfork talk to Feist about her Look At What The Light Did Now documentary, out today on DVD.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer

Review and giveaway of A.C. Newman's Get Guilty

Photo By Caleb BuyersCaleb BuyersLet’s be honest, there’s not a lot of reason for there to be a Carl Newman solo record. The man is the chief songwriter in The New Pornographers, an outfit that turns out material at a pretty decent rate all things considered, and it’s not as though he has a metal jones to itch that wouldn’t work in the context of the Pornographers – when he puts on the AC Newman hat, he’s still the consummate popsmith.

But the whys and wherefores are his business – for the rest of us, there’s no sense in looking a gift horse in the mouth. And in this case, that gift is entitled Get Guilty. Like 2004’s The Slow Wonder, any of the songs on Guilty could have easily appeared on a Pornographers record but unlike that record, which seemed to deliberately apply a more traditional rock band ethos to the proceedings, Guilty seems more willing to incorporate the more ornate flourishes that you’d associate with a proper Pornographers release.

That said, without having to balance out the large cast of players in the Pornographers, the AC Newman experience is leaner and punchier – more of a raiding party than the mothership of the New Pornographers. And for those wondering where all the fast songs that weren’t on Challengers went, well, at least some of them are here – “Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer” and “The Palace At 4AM” have a rhythmic drive and energy that hasn’t really been there on the last couple Pornographer records. Of course, whether they’d have fit is another discussion altogether – the important things is that they’re here now and they’re excellent, as is pretty much all of Guilty.

Get Guilty is out today, and courtesy of Last Gang Records, I’ve got copies on CD to give away to five lucky Canadians (sorry Americans, you’ll have to console yourselves today with a new president). To enter, leave me a comment below telling me something you’re guilty of and make sure your email is there, spam-proofed as need be, so I can contact you. Contest closes at midnight, January 26. Also remember that AC Newman are heading out on tour in February, including a March 11 date at Lee’s Palace in Toronto.

NPR has a short interview with Newman, Magnet a longer one, and Allmusic has traced out his musical history from the early days with Superconductor through to the present. Update: Stereogum has another live session video from Newman to follow up the one premiered at Pitchfork last week. Update 2: The whole album is streaming at Spinner.

MP3: AC Newman – “There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve”
MP3: AC Newman – “Submarines Of Stockholm”
Stream: AC Newman / Get Guilty
MySpace: AC Newman

Co-Pornographer Neko Case will release Middle Cyclones on March 3 and blow into town for two dates at Trinity-St Paul’s on April 17 and 18. Tickets for each of those shows are $35.50.

MP3: Neko Case – “People Got A Lotta Nerve”

And Neko’s ex-Boyfriends The Sadies will be Jon Langford’s band when he plays the Horseshoe on February 27 – tickets are $12.50 and that gets you not one but TWO sets of country rocking goodness.

Not your speed but still seeking something to do that night? The Music Tapes, featuring ex-Neutral Milk Hotelier Julian Koster, will be at Lee’s Palace that same night in support of last year’s Get Guilty. Like 2004’s Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes. Tickets also $12.50.

MP3: The Music Tapes – “Majesty”
Video: The Music Tapes – “Majesty”
Video: The Music Tapes – “Ministry Of Longitude”

There’ll be a lovely little show taking place at The Central in Mirvish Village next Thursday night, January 29, featuring the songwriters from a few of Toronto’s finest bands in a solo and acoustic setting – Casey Mecija of Ohbijou, Kat Burns of Forest City Lovers, Jonas Bonnetta of Evening Hymns and Gavin Gardiner of The Wooden Sky. Admission is pay-what-you-can.

The Coast are heading over to the UK for some dates next month and Clash has not only conducted a feature interview with the the Toronto boys, but set up a fancy little microsite about the band. And they’re making available to download a Born Ruffians remix of “All The Boys” from Expatriate.

MP3: The Coast – “All The Boys” (Born Ruffians remix)

The schedule for Canadian Musicfest (why do I think I’m going to be the only one not calling it Canadian Music Week?) is partially up, and by partially I mean barely. But there’s still some good information on lineups now available, foremost those of the Chart-sponsored shows at the Horseshoe. And they’re kinda stacked. Just a little. Thursday, March 12 you’ve got Chad Van Gaalen, Gentleman Reg, Women, $100, The Lovely Feathers, The Delinquints and Quest For Fire. The Friday night bill will be led by Handsome Furs and also feature Human Highway, The Bicycles, Daniel Wesley, Dinosaur Bones, Hot Panda and The Schomberg Fair. And finally, Saturday will wrap things up with The Golden Dogs, Two Hours Traffic, Young Galaxy, Rebekah Higgs, The Hundreds And Thousands, Vancougar and Hexes & Ohs. Admission to these shows is via CMF wristbands and needless to say, get there early. Of course, once in you probably won’t be able to leave but really, why would you want to?

But if you do, there’s a few other dates and venues to note. Malajube, who will release Labyrinthes on February 10, are at the El Mocambo on March 12. That same night both Angela Desveaux and The Rural Alberta Advantage are at the Gladstone and 6 Day Riot are at Rancho Relaxo. On the Saturday, Basia Bulat and Herman Dune are at Lee’s Palace while The Ting Tings are at the Mod Club. Still more to come, obviously, but things look to be shaping up alright.

Joel Plaskett will play Massey Hall – yes, Massey Hall – on May 23. Tickets from $29.50 to $39.50.

BlogTO talks to the members of Bruce Peninsula, who have a string of local dates surrounding the February 3 release of A Mountain Is A Mouth. There’s a January 31 date at the Horseshoe, a February 4 in-store at Soundscapes and the February 22 album release party at the Polish Combatants Hall.