Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Broadcasting From Home

Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Broadcasting From Home

A little while ago a musical hero of mine, Martin “Youth” Glover released a list. Youth is a legendary, versatile, creative musician with Killing Joke and other bands as well as a sought after producer and remixer, a record label owner, a creator of abstract drawings and now curator of the Space Mountain Festival. You can see why I continue to be amazed by this guy.  His list of Top 10 Albums To Get High To surprised me as only 50% of those records were in my collection. While getting high is not my thing (just my personal preference) I had to discover the music being suggested by such an influential source. I have already posted about The Damned’s release Damned Damned DamnedAlice Coltrane’s album Journey In Satchindananda and Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Upsetters’ record Super Ape and today we have Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Broadcasting From Home.

PCO was created by Simon Jeffs in 1974 and the band remained active until his death in 1997. Eventually Jeffs’ son formed a similar band called Penguin Orchestra that performs his fathers music as well as new compositions. Broadcasting From Home is the band’s third or fourth album, depending on how you count their 1983 self titled mini-album. Released in 1984 Broadcasting contains arguably their most well known song, “Music For A Found Harmonium”. This track was composed on a pump organ that Jeffs found discarded in an alleyway while visiting Japan. The song has been widely covered, used in movies and advertising and was even remixed by The Orb.,

Immediately upon listening I am struck by the familiar yet bizarre sound of their music. It is obvious they have had a profound influence on all manner of instrumental composition, especially soundtrack scoring. The immediate connection I can make is that of Philip Glass as Broadcasting From Home is full of minimalist cycling and looping sounds that do not build or dissipate in a manner traditional music has trained us to expect them to do.  Penguin Cafe Orchestra seems to be equal parts classical, folk, new age, avant garde experimental and jazz, a truly beautiful combination of sources and influences with no one particular style winning out. The end result is a recording that while so different from the immediate world of pop and everyday music is so readily accessible and enjoyable it almost betrays its own esthetic as challenging and groundbreaking composition. What a revelation this little list from Youth has been. I am excited to see what the final installment brings.

Penguin Cafe (Simon Jeff’s Son’s band) Website
Penguin Cafe on Facebook
Penguin Cafe on Twitter
Penguin Cafe on Instagram

Broadcasting From Home from Amazon
Broadcasting From Home from iTunes
Broadcasting From Home on Spotify

Cheap Trick

Various Live Albums

img_6735Cheap Trick – Various Live Albums

I’ve been a huge Cheap Trick fan for a long time. In this blog that’s only a couple of months old I’ve written about their new album, a biography on them and a couple of their studio albums. I have always enjoyed their records but when thinking about the band recently I realized how much I love them live. This is really no surprise, they are known as a superb live band and a live album, Live At Budokan, was their break out success. So I decided to check out a bunch more of their live records to see how well they capture the essence of seeing and hearing Cheap Trick live.

Two of the CDs I received are official Cheap Trick releases.  Their second live album after Budokan was 1998’s Music For Hangovers. It is a pared down selection of tracks from the band’s four nights at Chicago’s famed Metro, where they played each of their first four albums in their entirety, one per night. While the CD sounds great it’s hard to get very excited about this album knowing how heavily edited it is. I very much would have preferred a box set with all four complete shows. Silver is their third live album, taken from a 1999 show in the band’s hometown of Rockford, IL where they were performing in celebration of their 25th anniversary. This release comes in several versions. I got the CD/DVD combo.

The remainder of the discs I ordered are all, shall we say, “unofficial”. They cover many different time periods and range in quality greatly. They are all taken from radio broadcasts so while the sound is never terrible it’s never quite as pristine as the official releases but honestly that’s ok with me. In my book Cheap Trick are always better with a little buzz and hum than slick and clean. Here is the rundown of the releases –
Rockford Armory – Rockford Armory, Rockford, IL 1977 (edited show)
Raising Hell – 4 discs, Rockford Armory, Rockford, IL 1977 (full show) / International Amphitheater, Chicago, IL 1979
On Top Of The World – Capital Theater, Passaic, NJ 1978
Auld Lang Syne – Forum, Los Angeles, CA 1979
Turn On The Radio – 2 discs, Alpine Valley, East Troy, WI 1982 / Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI 1987
Live In Wisconson (yes it’s misspelled for some reason) – Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI 1994
In The Joint – Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, NV 1995
So the shows represented here run from the year of their first album all the way through to their twelfth. They are great documents of some incredible concerts and an amazing addition to my Cheap Trick shelf.

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Cheap Trick Website
Cheap Trick on Facebook
Cheap Trick on Twitter
Cheap Trick on Instagram

Cheap Trick from Amazon
Cheap Trick from iTunes
Cheap Trick on Spotify

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
Brian Eno on Facebook

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
Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Facebook
Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Twitter
Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Instagram

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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
Beach House on Facebook
Beach House on Twitter
Beach House on Instagram

B-Sides And Rarities from Beach House Store
B-Sides And Rarities from Amazon
B-Sides And Rarities from iTunes
B-Sides And Rarities on Spotfiy

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
Love & Mercy on Facebook
Love & Mercy on Twitter
Love & Mercy on Instagram
Brian Wilson on Facebook
The Beach Boys on Facebook

Love & Mercy from Amazon
Love & Mercy from iTunes
Love & Mercy on Spotify

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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Johnny Jewel on Facebook
Chromatics on Facebook
Twisted Wires on Facebook
Italians Do It Better Website
Italians Do It Better on Facebook
Italians Do It Better Instagram

Italians Do It Better Store
Italians Do It Better on Spotify
Italians Do It Better on Soundcloud

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