Brian Eno

Another Green World

img_7093Brian Eno – Another Green World

Recently Vinyl Factory published a list where 15 artists picked their favorite Brian Eno record. I assumed it would be, as my friend Patrick V. put it, 15 entries of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, Eno’s 1981 collaboration with David Byrne of Talking Heads. How wrong we were. But I was stunned when five of the selections, all of them by my favorite artists on the list, were for the same album. It was not however My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, instead the honor went to Eno’s 1975 release, Another Green World. I did not own this album but when that many musicians I respect speak, I move!

Another Green World was chosen as the favorite Brian Eno album by Alex Patterson of ambient/dance/electronic juggernaut The Orb. It was also selected by Patterson’s long term partner in The Orb, Thomas Fehlmann. The album was picked by Boris Blank, the legendary musician behind Swiss electro band Yello. As well it was chosen by early Ultravox singer John Foxx and groundbreaking avant garde pianist Harold Budd. These are some real heavy hitters in my book and I was curious and excited to try to find what had struck such a wide array of incredible artists about this release.

Another Green World is the record where Eno moved away from standard song structure and, for the most part, vocals to explore uncharted territory. Much has been made of the guest spots on the album by Robert Fripp, John Cale and Phil Collins but truthfully the majority of it is Eno working solo. The album was created with a number of odd self imposed restrictions which were designed to boost creative thinking. This is readily evidenced in how many instruments are utilized in unusual fashions. The greatest revelation of the record though is its blending styles. Jazz, rock, pop and even disco are drawn upon and fused into something wholly new.

My main takeaway is that this album is perhaps the first example of electronic made organic. It is so easy to hear how it drastically influenced David Bowie, Gary Numan and countless others, such as those who chose it in the list that spurred me to buy it. One truth this blog is revealing to me is that no matter how much music I am familiar with and how deep my knowledge of it may run I almost daily encounter something new to hear and learn about. To me these experiences are why music is so valuable.

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Brian Eno Website
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Another Green World from Amazon
Another Green World from iTunes
Another Green World on Spotify

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Mystery Science Theater 3000

Live Tour Items

img_7100Mystery Science Theater 3000 – Live Tour Items 

Recently I had the amazing fortune to enjoy Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live as a VIP. Previously I had seen Cinematic Titanic four times, The Mads (Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff) six times and Joel Hodgson’s Riffing Myself twice. While not actually in person I have also seen Rifftax live remotely via their Fathom events 24 times so I have a lot of experience with the original cast alums doing live shows. This however was my first time to see MST3K proper live and of course also the first tour for the new cast. I’ve already established my absurd fandom for movie riffing in discussing my 17 years of nightly viewings and my posts on the Cinematic Titanic Complete DVD Set and the upcoming Mystery Science Theater 3000 Trading Card Set. So this was in a silly way a major event in my life.

Before the show proper we were treated to a small VIP gathering that consisted of a Q&A session with Joel. We also got a little inadvertent set tour where we checked out the stage, a bunch of props and some costume racks, etc. Then a quick handshake meet and greet was followed by about 100 photos with the full cast on the set. It was a lot of fun and some nice icing on the cake that was the incredible riffs of two amazingly bad films. They were the MST classic Eegah! with all new riffs (plus a few choice throwbacks) and the mystery film which turned out to be the Italian/English superhero James Bond mash up Argo, The Fantastic Superman. Both were nothing short of hilarious and the live presentation was perfect for MST, part community theater DIY, part creative genius-level professional.

But In The Mail Today isn’t supposed to be about the concerts, movies, and theater events that I attend. Its about the stuff! So the VIP experience came with a cool laminate featuring Jonah and the bots being pelted with spring snakes (it was the Watch Out For Snakes Tour) on a custom lanyard. We also got a nice MST logo tote bag and a sweet live show poster. Of course they offered lots of additional merch as well. I opted for the tour photo book which photographically takes you through the creation of the tour from conception to writing sessions to green screen filming to live show pics. The Script book for Eegah! was a unique item that was made all the more interesting by Joel’s reluctant introduction which is featured in the photos here.  In total these are some fantastic souvenirs from an amazing night.

*full disclosure – these items did not come in the mail. I picked them up in person at the merch booth when I saw MST3K live recently.

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Mystery Science Theater 3000 Website
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Beach House

B-Sides And Rarities

img_6327Beach House – B-Sides and Rarities

I discovered Beach House on their third album, Teen Dream, in 2010 purely by their association with the Bella Union record label. Bella Union is run by Cocteau Twins bassist and keyboard player Simon Raymonde. I have always admired the curated aesthetic he has achieved and maintained with the label, as well as his own otherworldly musicianship. Anytime I have happened across a release on Bella Union I have picked it up, out of curiosity and respect. Such was the case with Teen Dream and I had no idea how much of a treat I was in for.

Immediately I was transfixed by Beach House’s simple arrangements and melodies while simultaneously hypnotized by the lushness of their harmonies and depth of their lyrics. After going back and exploring their first two albums I have followed their every step with great joy. Seeing the band grow, change, pile on the accolades, then grow some more has been a thing to behold. They’ve given us a lot of music over these last ten years and seven albums. So at first the idea of a b-sides collection doesn’t sound too exciting, especially from a band known for dreaming and shoe-gazing. Its easy to think that these tracks wouldn’t electrify you but that is where you would be quite wrong.

These new songs, covers, alternate versions, b-sides, compilation tracks, holiday singles, hidden songs, etc. are all brought together as being every non-album track the band has released. As an album itself, B-Sides And Rarities provides a bit of a taste of everything Beach House does musically and it contains songs from almost every period of the band. Yet their songs remain so steeped in a time out of time that in truth this could be presented as the band’s new album of wholly new material and it would be hard to tell that it isn’t. The songs, however far flung the sources they are gathered from may be, work as well together as anything else they have released and are just as achingly beautiful.

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Beach House Website
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B-Sides And Rarities from Beach House Store
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Cinematic Titanic

The Complete Collection

img_7090Cinematic Titanic – The Complete Collection

After the original demise of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1999 the principal players from the series eventually coalesced into two distinct camps. Mike Nelson (Mike Nelson), Kevin Murphy (the second Tom Servo/Bobo) and Bill Corbett (the second Crow/Observer) formed first The Film Crew and then Rifftrax.  The remaining talent, Joel Hodgson (Joel Robinson/series creator), Trace Beaulieu (the first Crow/Dr. Forrester), Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank), J. Elvis Weinstein (the first Tom Servo/Dr. Erhardt) and Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester) became Cinematic Titanic. I am a big fan of all these incarnations as evidenced by my recent post on the forthcoming Mystery Science Theater 3000 Trading Cards. In truth I have watched one of the groups in one form or another nightly since January of 2000. I know that sounds impossible and ridiculous but its true. I can’t overstate my love of movie riffing!

Cinematic Titanic began as studio versions of the cast playing themselves being forced to riff on movies in an effort to preserve them from erasure due to some event that was destroying all digital media. This was all taking place in some underground bunker controlled by a company or the government. Not too many details were provided but it was obvious Joel intended to build a new mythology similar to that of MST3K. After 7 studio releases the DVDs switched to live recordings of their touring show for the final 5 DVDs of their 12 (there were two more live shows that don’t seem to have ever been recorded sadly).  Joel commented many times that he came to realize that the vibe of CT was really in its live riffing. It was on these tours, performing the riffs live to a theater audience that Hodgson and the crew got a chance to connect with fans and see the real immediate effect of live riffing as well as the adoration for their legacy. Certainly in many ways this helped pave the path for the return of MST3K as well as the recent live MST shows with the new cast.

I actually already had all of these movies individually since I ordered them from Cinematic Titanic as each of them debuted. I picked this up because I thought it would be cool to have them collected together and the set does have a few small additional extras added to the original releases. In the end though, as much as I love all of those involved, to me CT was never equal to the sum of its parts. I can’t explain exactly why but it never quite seemed to find its stride to me. Maybe 6 performers is just too many riffers, or maybe it was that some of those involved were actually new to riffing having played other roles on MST3K. I’m not sure in the end but while I enjoyed these movies they aren’t my favorites compared to MST or Rifftrax but are very much worth having, especially when the complete set of all 12 films is so affordable.

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Cinematic Titanic on Facebook
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The Complete Collection from Shout Factory
The Complete Collection from Amazon

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Atticus Ross

Love & Mercy Soundtrack

img_7084Atticus Ross/Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys – Love & Mercy Soundtrack

On one hand this is a shared release between Atticus Ross, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, but on the other there is really no doubt that the name on the cover should be Atticus Ross as its his work that made this an extraordinary project. Love & Mercy, the film, is not a Beach Boys biopic nor even a Brian Wilson biopic but a document of Brian’s descent into a mental and emotional breakdown in the mid-’60s and his eventual recovery in the early ’90s. While the soundtrack showcases a few classic Beach Boys songs, and some fantastic live as well as new Brian Wilson songs it is Ross’ creations that bring the viewer and listener into the hallucinatory viewpoint of the film.

Anyone who has seen my previous post on the recent Beach Boys’ 1967 Wild Honey release will know what a gigantic fan of the band in general and of Wilson in particular I am. It was a stroke of genius and an amazingly difficult task to make a film that told the story of this aspect of Brian’s life. The movie could have so easily gotten it all wrong and instead it nailed it, from Paul Dano’s, John Cusak’s and Paul Giamatti’s performances, to director Bill Pholand’s picture perfect recreation of actual Beach Boys events to Atticus’ audio depiction of everything from Brian’s internal musical monologues to the swirling voices in his head.

I’ve been a big fan of Atticus Ross since his early days of working with Bomb The Bass and Barry Adamson. I really loved his band 12 Rounds as well but about the time he came on the scene in the Reznor-verse I had kind of moved on from NIN. I have however truly enjoyed his soundtrack work with his wife, Claudia Sarne, and brother, Leopold Ross though none of it really prepared me for the immersive and transportive material he created for Love & Mercy.

Ross crafted the music for the film by sound collaging bits and pieces from numerous Beach Boys master tapes, old audio tapes of Brian Wilson speaking as well as dialogue and sounds from the film itself. Ross layered, combined, manipulated and arranged these to create swooping melodies that represent the harmonic orchestra Wilson claims to hear constantly and is the muse to the music he creates. Conversely these same sounds represent the madness inducing voices in Wilson’s head that lead to his extended and repeated breakdowns. The effectiveness of what Ross created for the film and soundtrack can’t be understated and shows his mastery of the sonic form. In an interesting fashion it took the genius of Atticus Ross to illustrate the genius of Brian Wilson and I’m blessed enough to get to enjoy them both.

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Love & Mercy Website
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Love & Mercy from Amazon
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Johnny Jewel

Chromatics – Cherry (Deluxe Edition), Twisted Wires – Half Lives, Johnny Jewel – Music To Drive, Various Artists – After Dark

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Chromatics – Cherry (Deluxe Edition), Twisted Wires – Half Lives, Johnny Jewel – Music To Drive, Various Artists – After Dark

In a recent post I wrote about receiving an order from Italians Do It Better and ended up pledging my undying love to Johnny Jewel for everything he has created. Well here we are less than two months later and here I go again.

First up is the newly released deluxe edition of Chromatics’ album Cherry. This version extends the release from its original 8 songs to 18 tracks total. Like the first version of it all of the songs are culled from different eras and releases from the band, some in new forms and versions. It definitely has enough cool additions to make this well worth any listener’s time. Next, it is great to finally have a Twisted Wires release on CD. This one collects material from 2009’s One Night At The Raw Deal up through last year’s Struck Twice. The style and tone of Twisted Wires really connects with me and I would love to see a full album of new songs from this project in the near future. Finally we come to the skillfully tracked compilation Music To Drive, curated to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Winding-Refn’s movie mood masterpiece Drive. The original soundtrack to the film featured the likes of Chromatics and Desire and in Johnny’s words “introduced the electronic underground to audiences everywhere”. So its great to see it celebrated with a nice collection of songs from Johnny’s various label projects.

As always this order arrived from Italians Do It Better with an awesome FREE oversize poster, a FREE sticker and a FREE CD. Name me another label that does more for their fans.

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Thor

Sh*t The Pants

img_7096Thor And The Ass Boys – Sh*t The Pants

I recently posted about Thor’s new album Beyond The Pain Barrier. In that blog I mentioned his amazingly candid, funny and cool documentary I Am Thor. Well anyone who has seen that will recall the antics of Thor’s punk band side project, Thor And The Ass Boys. Although fronted by Thor one gets a sense that the band is actually helmed by Thundergeek (a/k/a Michael Pilmer) whom some may know as Devo-Obsesso or through his I Threw Up stickers or his Draw A Dick On It efforts or any other of Michael’s myriad of creative outlets. From seeing the film its obvious that when Thor, Pilmer and the rest of the Ass Boys get together, a good time is had and as a byproduct a bit of ridiculous, hilarious and kick ass punk rock is created.

Their newest novelty is a killer 7″ EP containing 4 songs. This limited edition of 500 is available with a photo cover on blue vinyl (400 pieces) or a special art cover by Micki Fever on gray vinyl (100 pieces). Both versions come with a lyric sheet backed with a label catalog in good old fashioned punk rock photocopy quality.  Two of the songs on this release,”Sh*t The Pants” and “F*cking & Fighting”, are taken from the 1999 shared CD by Coalition Against Shane/Thor/Thor And The Ass Boys called Keepin’ The Dogs Away. That disc was a strictly limited pressing of 500 so its pretty hard to come by. The tracks did turn up again recently on the I Am Thor soundtrack CD but they appear here on vinyl for the first time. The other two offerings on this EP, “Exploding Head” and “Spaceships In The Sky” initially appeared on a split Thor/Thor And The Ass Boys 7″ back in 2000. That record was a limited edition of 300 and is long sold out so its great to have those titles available again here, especially as they have been remastered for an even more intense and skull shattering effect!

I’m going to let you go watch I Am Thor to discover the origin of the band’s rather smelly moniker so don’t bother asking me about it. Hopefully these guys can jump on stage to join Thor for a couple of songs if his upcoming tour for Beyond The Pain Barrier stops in The Ass Boys’ area of North Carolina.

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Thor Website (Thor Central by Michael Pilmer)
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Sh*t The Pants from Thor Central

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