Category Archives: Past-the-bridge

A summary of sorts

Very many moons ago, I finished listening the SXSW 2013 track list (as graciously provided by The Unofficial SXSW torrent site. Later today (or week), I will trans-scribe the full selection of reasonable tracks according to my ears. As is traditional, here are the very best five tracks of 2013:

  1. “Sweet tooth” – Kids on a crime spree. Short and heavily inspired by the Spector-sound (vimeo).
  2. “Mosaic” – Fear of Men. Also short, but poppish UK sound (vimeo as well).
  3. “Switzerland” – The Last Bison. Folkish, US sound. Good, but I hesitate to recommend them now that they’ve gone commercial.
  4. “You were never there” – Diego Garcia. Easy listening folk-pop? (Youtube).
  5. “Dreamers” – The Blue Van. Danish band with original sound.

Runner ups: “Ausland” – Camera, “Water against the rocks” – Faye and “Nightmare #2″ – Bergara Quartet.

- SXSW 2011 best 5
SXSW 2012 best 5

SXSW 2013 music part 1

A week ago, I noticed that the Unofficial SXSW torrent site had started to distribute music for some of the major SXSW acts this year (site). Once again there are two torrents involved here: part 1 is the big 6 gig one, with over 900 files). Part 2 has a limited set of around the 200 music files.

Once again, I will be listening to (or attempt to) all the files in both sets: this year with slight interest tho, meaning with scarce commentary. Document 1 covers the first torrent file. Document 2 covers the last torrent file. To this date, I’ve listened to a total of 176 files or so. I’ve not yet heard amazing music yet: that is the wow factor is fairly low-key this year. We’ll report back in another couple of weeks.

One other thing that I keep forgetting is the part of how I export specific MP3 tags. Yes, I don’t type all the song names, artist names and duration of songs manually. Since most of the (legal) torrents are downloaded on my Linux laptops (previously), obviously I use Linux tools to take care of this. I use a tool called ‘exiftool’, which you may need to add to your package manager. For Ubuntu it would look something like: apt-get install exiftool. To extract specific tags I run the following command in a terminal session:

exiftool -csv *.mp3 -sourcefile -title -artist -duration > tags.txt

Note that you can export other MP3 tags as well: I’ll leave that to yourself to find out.

update 1: All related items are filed under the tag SXSW

SXSW 2012 (part 3)

So, the final list of tracks worth listening to: or rather the list of tracks that made it to my audio device. Over time (time permitting), I’ll add links to the artist’s websites but for now you’ll have to do with the (unedited) remarks.

Interesting additional notes:

  • There are plenty of Canadian bands in the list. Unintentionally. Apparently, everybody loves Canadian bands.
  • I had the impression that Chinese rock is slowly invading our Western world. For example, the quality of Duck Fight Goose’s music is really good.
  • There’s a lot of HipHop/RAP/R&B acts. There were so many tracks that I frequently skipped tracks. There’s good hiphop, also and some of it made it to my list.

While I was a lot more hesitant listening to all 1200+ tracks, generally, I thought that the SXSW torrent files were once again a good source to find new upcoming and interesting artists.

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SXSW 2012 (part 2)

Late, but it’s been done: I finally managed to listen to all the songs (all of em) of this year’s SXSW torrents (previously). More than last year’s effort (see here), I had the feeling this was very painful. While I’m sure that this set of music does not reflect the state of the music scene (well, lets hope so), I thought there were a lot more hiphop/soul/yaddayadda acts this year. I don’t mind good hiphop but, honestly, everything sounds the same these days. Worst yet, I had the same feeling of the ‘regular’ music. I still ended up selecting over hundred tracks, which is more than I imagined. The main list is here: unedited. Later this week, I will compile this stuff into edible portions. Before I head into the 5 best (or rather, surprising) acts and songs, I am surprised that last year’s best 5 songs still appear frequently in my favourite playlist. Highly recommended songs. But without further ado:

  1. Hooded Fang – ESP (youtube): Band from Toronto that surprised me with surf-rock-pop-lyrics. Refreshing and (I guess) already well-known in Canada for their prime minister Harper stunts.
  2. Maya Azucena – The Half (youtube): Powerful mix of soul and rock. Mind you, she’s been around for a while. Obviously I had never heard of her.
  3. Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds – Make it rain youtube) She’s apparently, white, but her vocals are like, you know, she could have been African American.
  4. Duck Fight Goose – Glass Walls (youtube) Electronic pop. Check. Guitar effects. Check. Chinese. Wait? Is this going to be the the year of the rise of Chinese Rock?
  5. Todd Reynolds – Transamerica – (link) With Transamerica, classically trained violist and composer Todd Reynolds blew my brains out. Member of the Steve Reich ensemble, he’s described as a “daredevil”, frequently crossing over to electronic music.

Murdering the classics

I‘ve mentioned Yo La Tengo before on xsamplex (right here); as part of my ‘Past The Bridge’ series, I (slightly) proclaimed my likeness for the NJ based band.

If you’ve been on the Internet, you are probably aware of the band’s yearly “Yo La Tengo is murdering the classics”-gig, where the band takes requests for the illustrious radio station WFMU. I recorded one such session in 2008 (briefly discussed here), which was exactly right before I moved to work in SJ. Ever since then I missed the opportunity to listen, well, except for like 2 weeks ago, were a timely reminder (Metafilter, props) reminded me to get my recording gear in action.

Today’s ‘Past The Bridge’ sample is the full track of Yo La Tengo’s rendition of The Clean’s “Tally Ho” – the full track can be found in my media section. Compare that with the original, and judge for yourself (Single Youtube Link)

I have not yet sorted through the whole setlist: I recall that during a couple of songs I slightly lost connection here and there. Generally though, it was an excellent session. If only I had time to separate the tracks out for both 2008 and 2012 sessions.

SXSW stuff for 2012

So this week, the first batch of music files in the traditional torrent file has appeared on the internets (here). There are currently 700+ files in there and I believe there’s another set coming up. Get your torrent app out and share.

This year I’ll be (once again) going through the whole collection: Last year I started late and it took me almost two weeks to get through it. The final result was fairly good: Thinking of it, the 5 songs that I selected are to this day still in my listening repertoire.

If you do want to follow my progress: I’ve shared my Google Doc with the outside world. Last year’s document is also online, but as far as I can tell, that sheet is the filtered music list (here). This year, I’ll stick to the adopted rule that ‘everything rated greater than 3 (not including 3) will be included on my listening device and will be properly rewarded on this blog. Ahem. Whatever.

So Central Rain

Eearlier this month, REM announced that they were breaking up. That is: after being over 30 years in the music industry, the three band members decided that:

“Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together”

Today’s ‘Past The Bridge’ entry, (musically) encompasses the band’s earlier years perfectly: So. Central Rain (35+ seconds). I refrained from using their more popular works as I believe that everything went downhill after their ‘Out of Time’ LP/CD. Sure, ‘Everybody hurts’ sounds pretty and ‘consumable’ but it’s over-engineered and over-done. Compare that to their earlier works, were Stipe’s lyrics, superimposed on the band’s simple chord structure, created songs people still don’t understand today. That is the brilliance and timelessness of ‘So Central Rain’ and for that matter, all songs on their album “Reckoning”.

I ran into REM during Stipe’s infamous contribution to KRS-One’s HEAL project (earlier) and KRS-One’s contribution to REM’s “Radio Song” (YouTube, another brilliant song). This was in a time where the band slowly started to become the focus of attention, which skyrocketed after their ‘Automatic’ CD. The rest is fairly history: I lost interest and found other music I cared for. In my opinion, REM never recovered their artistic skills after ‘Automatic’. Maybe that’s the curse of commercialization. Maybe not. Who cares.

Seventy Five

I finally managed to add some notes to the 75 or so personally selected songs of SXSW 2011 (out of 1200 or so: earlier). I’ve not ranked anything in this list as ranking is so subjective: I think together all the songs form a solid and enjoyable list of songs. The songs that sprung out I marked as ‘recommended': ‘recommended’ as in ‘this band has a future’ or ‘the song is just plain simple subjectively good’. Personal side-notes were written up to be as brief as possible, more or less to provide a mental anchor to distinguish the artists and/or songs

I’m fairly happy with the fact that even some dance/hiphop songs made it to this list: artists like K.Flay and Ancient Astronauts obviously surprised me because of either a smart delivery of lyrics or a highly inventive use of samples.

What else? Most of the bands listed below are independent: to support them, please find their websites or buy their songs from their preferred digital music distribution system.

Over time I hope to be able to add proper linkage to the artist’s websites. In the mean time, enjoy:

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SXSW 2011

This year I decided to listen to all the SXSW 2011 showcase tracks: all 1154 of them. The torrents are available from the Unofficial SXSW torrents website, a whopping total of 6.5 Gb. The point of this exercise? I consider myself someone who knows music, who is fairly objective and will mark anything as likable, as long it has a combination of good unpredictable music. Good intelligent lyrics is a plus. The end result of this two week endeavor (picking out songs I liked vs. songs I didn’t like) is fairly bad: only 6% or so actually made it to my iPod. There were days that the state of popular music (listen, indie music doesn’t really exist) made me depressing as every song turned to be about the typical themes of love, hate and desperation. There are bands (and artists) who seem to get it, go against the mainstream and produce truly unique songs: the list of 75 songs I marked as good, I will discuss some other day. Without hesitation, 5 songs that surprised me:

  1. ‘Once and for all’ – Clock Opera (youtube): The lead singer is not afraid to use his falsetto voice which is something I so much appreciate, as I’ve been in a similar situation (More about this later). From all the depressing love-hate-kill songs in the SXSW11 set, the lyrics are refreshing and allegedly, based on a popular US play.
  2. ‘Losing sleep’ – Edwyn Collins (Youtube): Sometimes simple is better. Sometimes it’s a cliche. Excellent simple and catchy song.
  3. ‘Lemonade’ – Braids (Youtube live). Montreal-based electro-guitar-pop band with a song that features a surprising outtro.
  4. ‘Havana’ – Lex Land a singer songwriter from LA. I don’t know what to say here but I like the voice and where she’s going, lyrics-wise.
  5. ‘Guttersnipe’ – Bhi Bhiman (mp3) Singer-songwriter, obviously soul, folk with a touch of Sri Lanka and that walking bass.

There are so many more songs, but the one that should have gotten the prize for ‘weirdest’ sound is ‘The Green word’ from The Lava Children. It’s so off-tune or wait, no, it’s modulation or something. I can’t explain what it is but I’m sure it would look interesting on sheet music (for the daring. I’ve warned ya).

Uprock

I have been thinking about my ‘breakdance’ period a lot recently for no apparent reason, except for that it was triggered by the song ‘Uprock’ from the Rock Steady Crew (DailyMotion video and my own sample on this server in the traditional 30+ seconds). This song actually was the staple song for our (me and my twin) breakdance affairs: it was the song we practiced on and the song we performed on. This was actually the only break dance record we owned: that is besides the many mix-tapes we had (recordings from the radio mostly). Mix-tapes, of course, were frowned upon. A lot, I remember.

Anyway, “Uprock” was released in 1984, a year after the Crew’s breaking hit ‘Hey You’ and (despite the fancy clip that came with it) it hardly made it to the hit charts, much to our displeasure. The song has a more distinct hardcore sample feel to it and obviously, it’s the better song to dance on (compared to ‘Hey You’). The 12-inch record itself came with the ‘extended version’ (7 minutes long?) and the ‘single version. Most likely, there was an instrumental version on the B-side (Just checked “discogs”: looks like I was fairly close).

Good old times right? I’ve mentioned my breakdancing on this blog before (notably here and slightly less here). We used “Uprock” at one time to disrupt a (history) project week where we danced on the ‘extended’ version of that song, much to the pleasure of the classes and teachers (surprisingly). This event led to the invitation for that infamous school night for students 1 or 2 grades below us (mentioned in that first link) where we basically outdanced and shocked the audience with headspins (shocked I tell you), turtles (sideways), handspins and backspins. We were proud breakdancing nerds and fearless dancers with the right ‘I don’t care what you think of us’-attitude.

This school night was also our very last public breakdance performance, which made the event all the better and bittersweet at the same time. Homework was obviously getting more important: when I look back to the days after that night, it’s almost like we shrugged it off. I don’t recall we made a decsion or something and our parents didn’t really care if we were breakdancing or not. However, I guess, we just knew that it was time to grow up and go on with studying. At the age of 14 or 15: that was probably the best assessment teenagers can make.

One world One voice

In 1990, the BBC broadcast the ‘One World One Voice’ documentary, a documentary to raise awareness of environmental issues. It was followed by an almost hour long chain of music, initially started as a tape by Kevin Godley (“10CC”) which he then shared with fellow musicians around the world. And quite a bit of musicians helped along: the list is so long, a good start is the Wikipedia article.

The result of all this, or rather, the mix is fairly good: there are highlights like Salif Keita’s piece and there are parts that could have been omitted (New Frontier). But the most outstanding part of the album is the Finale, which features Japanese Kodo drummers mixed in with a 2 minute or so classical piece performed by the Leningrad Symphony Orchestray. And not surprisingly, that’s today’s ‘Past the Bridge’ piece (
One world one voice 30+ some seconds). I’ve waited for a long time to see this clip appear on the Internet, but I guess, if you’re patient, everything will end up here: if you’re more interested in seeing the clip, or rather the whole documentary, try Youtube, of course.

I used to have the whole CD on one MD disk and if I was in a good mood I used to listen to the album from the beginning to the end: I don’t think a lot of people appreciated that, particularly when the voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan faded in. Not that I loved his music, but it fitted quite well within, well, everything. I was not too old then, barely leaving my teenage years. An excellent age to discover World Music. An excellent age to terrorize fellow-train passengers with the sounds of World Music. An excellent age to discover that where ever music is played in the world, the notes always seem to overlap and that musical tunes, no matter where and how they are played, are truly universal.

Civilization vs. Technology

I read that the ozone layer depletion has been halted: this week, UN scientists published a report that the ozone layer should restore itself by 2050. This reminded me of one of the most obscure collaborations in musical history between singer Michael Stipe and rapper KRS-One, which is a song, or rather, an agitprop rap, warning against the dangers of the depletion of the ozone layer, commonly attributed to the use of CFCs and industrial pollution. The general consensus is that the 1987 ban on CFC production contributed to the slowing down of the depletion.

Which brings us to today’s ‘Past The Bridge’ posting, the track ‘Civilization vs. Technology’ which features Harmony, Jane Scarpantoni, KRS-One and Michael Stipe (
30+ sample mp3). I’m extremely mixed about this song (or rap): it’s the better track of the record with the same name, but, the production of it seems half-baked. The excellent use of cello (Scarpantoni) sounds fragmented. The same can be said for the lyrics: Stipe’s contribution is fairly limited (but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wrote the majority of the lyrics). The song slightly veers back on rails during the second verse and after but, yeah, the overall result is half-baked.

So, while I don’t think Michael Stipe and KRS actually stopped the ozone layer from depletion personally, they do deserve credit for creating awareness: I don’t think too many artists have raised this issue in the 80s or 90s. That is, not that I can remember. It’s a kind of sad that the rest of the tracks on the Heal project’s ‘Civilization vs. Technology’ album are of such dubious quality that they make the contributions from Billy Bragg, Ziggy Marley, Michael Stipe and Tina Weymouth fall into obscurity. Good intentions (generally speaking) but bad execution.

add1: HEAL project previously discussed on xsamplex

The Water Margin

In the late 70’s, the show ‘The Water Margin’ became an instant hit in Europe. Produced by Nippon TV, the show spanned about 30 episodes (I think) and it featured as many types of martial arts kids could only dream of, and a story line that evokes so many cliches, that it, as an adult, makes one’s toes curl up. I mean: An outlaw hero and his merry band of bandits fighting against an evil tyrant. Surely, you’ve heard that story before. But put that story right in Asia, with martial arts, swords and surreal fight scenes (example: “the two day fight”), present that to a European audience and you get an instant hit.

Unsurprisingly, the show’s tune has engraved itself in the minds of ‘Generation 70′ and that tune is the focus of today’s ‘Past The Bridge’ posting. A one minute sample can be found right here. The sung theme features the voice of one ‘Pete Mac Junior’, who I believe is just a Japanese singer. If you’re more into the original musical theme (and if you’re curious about the show itself), you may want to check YouTube. It features trumpets, strings and strangely enough a perfect, out of step, rhythm section. For more dramatic effect, those Japanese lyrics.

There’s a slight irony in all of this: The show was heavily based on the Chinese book with the same name (wikipedia). Written in the early 1500’s, the books became an instant hit in Japan (first translated 200 years later), where the stories were literally localized. The irony, again? A Japanese show, featuring Japanese actors in a Chinese setting playing Chinese rebels. I heard that the Chinese did a remake of the show and apparently there’s also a movie (based on the books) in post-production.

But without doubt, as a kid I was impressed with the show and whenever allowed by my parents, I watched and devoured the stories and fights of Lin Chung and his band of, well, funny looking characters.