Saturday, October 31, 2009

Army Of Darkness (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - (1993)

Danny Elfman, who composed the score for Darkman, wrote the "March of the Dead" theme for Army of Darkness, but after the re-shoots were completed, Evil Dead II composer Joseph LoDuca returned to score the new film. LoDuca sat down with Raimi and they went over the entire film, scene by scene. The composer used his knowledge of synthesizers and was able to present many cues in a mock-up form before he took them in front of an orchestra.

Nosferatu - (1989)

After garnering a reputation as an idiosyncratic dance band/avant jazz group with two albums under their belt, The Club Foot Orchestra embarked on providing scores for silent films... probably one of the first groups to do so - they certainly paved the way for others like the Alloy Orchestra and other ensembles to also succeed in that niche. Club Foot Orchestra has a Nosferatu score written by Richard Marriott with contributions by Gino Robair. The score was premiered at San Francisco State University in April of 1989. Based loosely on Dracula, this German masterpiece remains chilling today.

Part 1

Part 2

Dead Man's Bones - (2009)

It's a blessing and a curse that one half of Dead Man's Bones is Academy Award-nominated actor Ryan Gosling. It's a blessing because Gosling and his partner, Zach Shields, undoubtedly got more attention for their self-titled debut album than they would have otherwise, and something of a curse because it may not be seen for as genuine a project as it is. Shields and Gosling originally conceived of Dead Man's Bones as a horror-themed musical, but kept the songs they had written when they realized putting on a stage production would be too expensive. Despite the high concept, Dead Man's Bones are pretty far from a vanity project — if anything, they're the opposite, with Gosling and Shields stretching far from their comfort zones at almost every turn. They played instruments they'd never touched before making the album, and brought in the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children's Choir to add young voices to their virtually untrained ones. They also set rules for themselves while recording: no electric guitars or click tracks were allowed, and they could only do three takes for any given part. All of this gives Dead Man's Bones the feeling — in the best possible way — of a bootleg recording of an elaborate grade-school Halloween pageant. By embracing their amateurism so completely, Gosling and Shields turn any weaknesses into strengths, and while influences ranging from the Arcade Fire and Beirut to Roy Orbison to the Langley Schools Music Project to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion ride can be heard, the way Dead Man's Bones combine them is unique. Over the course of the album, the duo covers an array of moods and sounds that more experienced musicians would be glad to express. These songs range from gentle ("Dead Hearts"' spectral folk) to dark and driving ("Lose Your Soul") to fiery (the Nick Cave-esque "Dead Man's Bones"), and sometimes all at once. Some of the most striking tracks mix jubilant music with images of death — or undeath, in the case of "My Body's a Zombie for You," where the kids can't help but shout out the chorus as Gosling croons like a zombie-fied '50s teen idol. Dead Man's Bones also do a fine job of balancing the campy and spiritual aspects of a concept album about love, death, and undeath. "In the Room Where You Sleep" is gleefully terrifying; "Young & Tragic," the only song the Silverlake Conservatory kids sing on their own, uses their delicate, flawed voices to express something deeper. Throughout it all, there is a "hey, kids, let's put on a show!" exuberance that makes the album all the more winning. Dead Man's Bones isn't perfect, but it's often fascinating and nearly always charming — and Shields and Gosling wouldn't have it any other way. (

The Walls Have Ears - (1986)

The Walls Have Ears is a Sonic Youth live recording from 1985. It was released on 2x12" vinyl in 1986. Tracks 1-8 were recorded live October 30, 1985 in London. Track 9 was recorded live November 8, 1985 in Brighton Beach. Tracks 10-17 were recorded live April 28, 1985 in London. The official pressing was a numbered edition of 2,000, though there are more unnumbered copies indicating a second pressing. This is considered to be one of SY's better non studio, official bootleg recordings.

Playing With Fire - (1989)

Appropriately preceded by the mind-melting crunch of the "Revolution" single, Playing with Fire proved to be the end of Spacemen 3 as a functioning band, but in truly spectacular fashion. Exploring both the depths of serene, agog beauty and sheer tape-shredding chaos, Playing with Fire pushed the extremes of The Perfect Prescription to an even further edge. It's little surprise that Pierce and Sonic couldn't find themselves properly working together after it, but even less that hordes of bands to follow would rank Playing with Fire as the equal (or better) of psychedelia's '60s/'70s forebears. Sonic himself is quoted in one reissue's liner notes as feeling the album "was the refining point of a lot of my theories on minimalism being maximalism" -- as apt a description as any. One of his songs, "How Does It Feel?," sums it up by using a series of notes echoing off into the distance, again and again. With future Spiritualized bassist Will Carruthers in place of Bain, the trio (and uncredited drummer) created glazed, liquid songs with subtle arrangements and sheer reveling in aural joys. Flange is everywhere, as is echo, full dynamic stereo mixes and more, a feast of sound. When aiming toward a gentler, hushed sound, most notably on Pierce's compositions, the incorporation of gospel power filtered through the band's own perspective results in wonders, as heard on "Come Down Softly to My Soul" and the album closing "Lord Can You Hear Me?" As for the louder end of things, besides the awesome "Revolution" itself, a slow burn blast that just keeps getting more and more obsessive and frenetic as it goes, Sonic calling for a release of energy in a mere five seconds, the other complete freakout is "Suicide." An instrumental tribute to the New York synth pioneers, Spacemen 3 keep the minimalism and up the feedback with astonishing results. (

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hades - (2009)

Hades was part of the music conceived as an aural art piece to accompany the release party of The Residents toy figures recently designed by Steve Cerio. The original music was conceived to utilize two DVD players that were programmed to randomly play abstract bits of music. They would play 5.1 surround audio and each would play different things. The project (which required 12 speakers placed in a circle around the gallery) was entitled Chaos is not just a theory. As these kinds of things go, it never quite worked out. The gallery never agreed to provide the sound system and some people felt it would be unpleasant for attending guests (correct) so by the time the toy release actually happened (there were several lengthy delays) The Residents had lost interest and had moved into other projects which did not allow them to even attend the toy release opening.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Second Toughest In The Infants - (1996)

On their second album, Underworld continue to explore the fringes of dub, dance, and techno, creating a seamless, eclectic fusion of various dance genres. Second Toughest in the Infants carries the same knockout punch of their debut, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, but it's subtler and more varied, offering proof that the outfit is one of the leading dance collectives of the mid-'90s.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Blue Velvet" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - (1986)

Beautiful and strange, the score to David Lynch's Blue Velvet is a staggering surrealist's nightmare told with the heart of a saint. Dense orchestrations float along whispers of dark, unnerving melodies; an astounding sense of menace coils inside even the most reassuring of moments. This marked the first collaboration between Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, and its fusion of the sublime and the dangerous is breathtaking. There are Bernard Herrmann violin slashes, revisited classics (Roy Orbison's "In Dreams," Bobby Vinton's title track), and the peak of the whole experience, "Mysteries of Love." This Mortal Coil turned down requests to use their beloved version of "Song to the Siren," but Badalamenti manages to construct a piece of such simplicity, of such beauty, that you wonder why a composer didn't create it before in the first place. Brutally compelling, like one of Jeffrey Beaumont's own mysteries, this is an extraordinary experience filled with both fear and love.

The World As It Is Today - (1981)

If you thought Henry Cow was a pretty political band to start with, you may be even more taken aback by the Art Bears, which was put together following Henry Cow's demise by former Cows Chris Cutler (percussion), Fred Frith (guitar, violin), and Dagmar Krause (voice). On The World As It Is Today and its predecessor, Winter Songs, the Art Bears move away from the long-form art rock of Henry Cow and get much, much more politically explicit: song titles like "The Song of the Dignity of Labour Under Capital" and "The Song of Investment Capital Overseas" almost sound like Monty Python gags today, but if any humor was intended it was clearly meant to be mordant. Frankly, the lyrics are so overwrought and portentous that it's hard to take them seriously. But the music is something else again. Cutler and Frith are natural collaborators; Cutler's drumming always rides a very fine line between the scattershot and the funky, while Frith bounces his horror-show guitar noise and carnival piano off of Cutler's grooves with manic abandon and fearsome inventiveness. And Krause's singing is just as inventive; she whoops, croons and screams her way through the density of Cutler's lyrics without a hesitation or misstep. Easy listening it isn't, but it's sure worth hearing. Frith fans, in particular, should consider this album a must-own. (

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Queen Of Siam - (1980)

Her laconic slur of a voice has never sounded sexier, and her off-key rendition of "Spooky" is so lazily erotic that it nearly sucks the life out of you. A putrid classic of style and substance.

*** 7" SINGLE ***
Dark Companion / 59 T0 1 (Remix) - (1980)

Monday, October 26, 2009

The First Annual Report Of Throbbing Gristle - (2001)

This legendary recording from Genesis P-Orridge's Throbbing Gristle reached an almost mythical status in the industrial music scene until its belated issue in 2001. So the story goes, the album was recorded in 1975 and was held back by the group, opting to debut with Second Annual Report, the album which established Throbbing Gristle as the primary influence on what would later be termed the industrial music scene in 1977. This seminal recording displays the early abrasive sound of the group from the start with the 18-minute "Very Friendly." This blast of static noise pummels the listener for the best part of 15 minutes, in which Genesis P-Orridge spins a horrifying tale of murder in his deadpan delivery, which is absolutely terrifying. The piece evolves into a tape loop, which Peter Christopherson winds into an incessant mantra for the closing three minutes. It is clear after this brutal introduction that First Annual Report was a milestone in subversive music matched only by Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, which incidentally came out the same year. However, Throbbing Gristle went even further, not just bombarding the listener with electronic noise but with extreme confrontational texts delivered in the most deranged fashion. While the noise may be a little hard to stomach in parts, in others it reaches sublime hypnotic peaks, and in either case First Annual Report is striking in that it is undeniably the most important advent in the roots of industrial music. With Genesis P-Orridge going on to Psychic TV, Peter Christopherson to Coil, and Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti as Chris & Cosey, it is a wonder that it took until 2001 before this recording appeared. Practically every act within industrial music and its offshoots — be it Merzbow, Whitehouse, Ministry, Big Black, or Godflesh — owes an incredible debt to the groundbreaking music of Throbbing Gristle. (

Saturday, October 24, 2009

*** 7" SINGLE ***
The Seeker / Half Step - (2000)

Operation: Doomsday - (1999)

Simultaneously hailed as an underground classic and cast aside as poorly produced backpack rap, Operation: Doomsday inaugurated the reign of MF Doom in underground rap from the early to mid-2000s. The pretext for the album is very similar to that of Marvel Comics supervillain Dr. Doom; after MF Doom, then known as Zevlove X, had been devastated by the death of his brother and K.M.D. accomplice, DJ Sub-Roc, in the early '90s, Elektra dropped his group and stopped the release of its second album, Black Bastards, due to its political message and, more specifically, its cover art. Doom was left scarred with a lingering pain that didn't manifest until the late '90s as hip-hop's only masked supervillain on Bobbito Garcia's Fondle 'Em Records. Carrying the weight of the past on his shoulders, Doom opens and closes Operation: Doomsday with frank and sincere lyrics. In between, however, many of the villain's rhymes are rather hard and piercing. On his subsequent material, he developed a more steady and refined delivery, but on this debut, Doom was at his rawest and, lyrically, most dexterous. The out-of-left-field edge of Doom's production — which features '80s soul and smooth jazz mixed with classic drum breaks — is indeed abstract at times, but his off-kilter rhymes are palatable and absent any pretentiousness. In fact, the album arguably contains some of the freshest rhymes one might have heard around the time of its release. There are more than enough obscure but fun references (i.e. "quick to whip up a script like Rod Serling" on "Go with the Flow" or "MCs, ya style needs Velamints" on "Dead Bent") and quotable jewels from the "on-the-mike Rain Man" to feed on. Nevertheless, one would be hard-pressed to overlook the low-budget mixing that mars some of the LP's presentation. For the hardcore Doom fans, the recorded-in-the-basement quality is appealing and representative of his persona as the underdog who "came to destroy rap." In contrast, given his contributions to hip-hop during the 2000s, the masked villain offers this explanation on "Doomsday": "Definition: supervillain/A killer who loves children/One who is well-skilled in destruction as well as buildin'." Even though this album is certainly not for everyone, you can easily respect from where the man is coming. (

Friday, October 23, 2009

And Their Refinement Of The Decline - (2007)

After the near symphonic exercise of engaging the void that was Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid in 2001, it was hard to believe there was anything left to do. Wrong. Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie emerged from the studio in early 2007 with the equally huge And Their Refinement of the Decline. The notion of symphonic here is, without doubt, still present, but not in any normal way. Over two very differently themed discs, and three LPs, Stars of the Lid engage long conceptual ideas from a place one can only call micro-minimalism. An obsession with drones fading in and out on all kinds of instruments is what takes precedent here, whether that be a string section, a solo cello, harp, trumpet or a children's choir. (Yes, all of them are here, and more.) Don't worry, all this deep fixation with drones and classical music doesn't mess up Stars of the Lid's sense of humor. The titles are still hilarious in places (the set opens with a piece titled "Dungtitled (In A Major)"). The sound of drones is prevalent on disc one, though the drones change and are actually held notes. Whether they are played live or simply articulated and then manipulated by electronics doesn't matter. The feeling of being washed over, being gently pulled under water to someplace where language no longer makes sense, feelings get all folded together and an overwhelming calm takes over — especially at loud volumes — as single notes are held by the strings for as long as five minutes. The aforementioned piece is like this, as are "The Evil That Never Arrived," and "Apreludes (In C Major)," which moves through one note for minutes at a time with an ever increasing dynamic and textural array of sounds and instruments and begins to feel like the opening theme of 2001: A Space Odyssey. (

Disc 1

Disc 2

*** 7" SINGLE ***
O Type (Part 1) / O Type (Part 2) - (1980)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Go! Plastic - (2001)

Realizing that another obsessively imitative jazz fusion workout could quickly become a blind alley, Squarepusher's Tom Jenkinson returned to the green fields of drum'n'bass for 2001's Go Plastic, and sounds quite refreshed for having taken the holiday. As one of the track titles ("Go! Spastic") attests, Jenkinson's back to heavy drill'n'bass, the practically undanceable collision of fractured breakbeats and sample-a-second riffs he made popular with his earliest work as Squarepusher. The opener and first single, "My Red Hot Car," is probably the most together production on the album, filtering drill'n'bass through the prism of the stylish British 2-step all the rage in clubland during recent years. (Even though the vocals are filtered and messed with, the risqué, scene-satirical lyrics are still audible, putting the track right in line with twisted, bizarro classics like Aphex Twin's "Come to Daddy" and "Windowlicker.") Jenkinson quickly moves from the single to "Boneville Occident" and "Go! Spastic," a pair of drill'n'bass knockouts that veer from pointed, endlessly complex breakbeats to downbeat hip-hop at the drop of a hat. He also approaches some sort of nadir for time-stretched drum'n'bass chaos on the seventh track, "Greenways Trajectory" — the breakbeat carnage is packed together so tightly that, eventually, the entire production is reduced to a series of dog-whistle test tones. (

The Ralph Records Singles - (1978,79,80,87)

Philip Charles Lithman (June 17, 1949 - July 1, 1987), who performed under the stage name Snakefinger, was an English musician, singer and songwriter. A multi-instrumentalist, he was best known for his guitar and violin work and his collaborations with The Residents.
Lithman was born in Tooting, South London, and came from the British Blues scene. He moved to San Francisco in 1971 and became associated with The Residents. It is said he was given the name 'Snakefinger' by The Residents themselves when they saw his proficiency with the guitar during their first live performance together. Another explanation for the name comes from a story concerning a party in San Francisco, at The Residents' collective, wherein all in attendance watched Lithman's fingers dart snake-like at the neck of his violin. Lithman performed with The Residents on their 13th Anniversary Tour in 1986. On July 1, 1987, Snakefinger and his band, The Vestal Virgins, arrived in Linz, Austria, on the European Night tour. On the next morning - before his scheduled performance in the Posthof Club, he was found dead in a guestroom of the Posthof: Lithman had suffered a fatal heart attack. On the day of his death, his single, "There's No Justice in Life", was released.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Unit Structures - (1966)

After several years off records, pianist Cecil Taylor finally had an opportunity to document his music of the mid-'60s on two Blue Note albums (the other one was Conquistador). Taylor's high-energy atonalism fit in well with the free jazz of the period but he was actually leading the way rather than being part of a movement. In fact, this septet outing with trumpeter Eddie Gale, altoist Jimmy Lyons, Ken McIntyre (alternating between alto, oboe and bass clarinet), both Henry Grimes and Alan Silva on basses, and drummer Andrew Cyrille is quite stunning and very intense. In fact, it could be safely argued that no jazz music of the era approached the ferocity and intensity of Cecil Taylor's.

Transformer - (1972)

David Bowie has never been shy about acknowledging his influences, and since the boho decadence and sexual ambiguity of the Velvet Underground's music had a major impact on Bowie's work, it was only fitting that as Ziggy Stardust mania was reaching its peak, Bowie would offer Lou Reed some much needed help with his career, which was stuck in neutral after his first solo album came and went. Musically, Reed's work didn't have too much in common with the sonic bombast of the glam scene, but at least it was a place where his eccentricities could find a comfortable home, and on Transformer Bowie and his right-hand man, Mick Ronson, crafted a new sound for Reed that was better fitting (and more commercially astute) than the ambivalent tone of his first solo album. Ronson adds some guitar raunch to "Vicious" and "Hangin' Round" that's a lot flashier than what Reed cranked out with the Velvets, but still honors Lou's strengths in guitar-driven hard rock, while the imaginative arrangements Ronson cooked up for "Perfect Day," "Walk on the Wild Side," and "Goodnight Ladies" blend pop polish with musical thinking just as distinctive as Reed's lyrical conceits. And while Reed occasionally overplays his hand in writing stuff he figured the glam kids wanted ("Make Up" and "I'm So Free" being the most obvious examples), "Perfect Day," "Walk on the Wild Side," and "New York Telephone Conversation" proved he could still write about the demimonde with both perception and respect. The sound and style of Transformer would in many ways define Reed's career in the 1970s, and while it led him into a style that proved to be a dead end, you can't deny that Bowie and Ronson gave their hero a new lease on life — and a solid album in the bargain. (

Monday, October 19, 2009

For Elsie - (1987)

For Elsie is based on a folk tune that was popularized by Beethoven with his Für Elise. Why The Residents picked it up is unknown, but they recorded this 30-minute version in 1987. After the first CUBE E European tour, the band returned to San Francisco and performed a series of shows, ending with Cube NYE on New Year's Eve, 1989. Each member of the audience was given a goody bag which included the For Elsie CD. An edited version also appeared on a one-sided LP. The version on CD runs ten minutes longer than the vinyl.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things We Lost In The Fire - (2001)

Over the course of their career, Low's glacially beautiful music has gradually melted into something much more accessible and intimate. The thaw culminates on Things We Lost in the Fire; despite its brooding title, it's the group's loveliest, most approachable collection of songs yet. Voluptuous strings, softly fuzzy guitars, and propulsive percussion suffuse songs like the sweetly melancholy opener "Sunflower" and the slo-mo pop of "Dinosaur Act" and "July" with a warmth and direction that Low's best work has always hinted at. Even the album's darkest moments, such as the tense, implosive "Whitetail," have more emotional urgency, heightened by Alan and Mimi's close, brooding harmonies. Yet Mimi's airy solo on the spare, undulating "Laser Beam" is equally spine tingling. Things We Lost in the Fire also features more of Low's understated stylistic experiments: The slightly jazzy harmonies and tempo of "Medicine Magazines" add a bit of swing to the group's usually steady rhythms, while "Kind of Girl" delves into earthy yet ethereal chamber folk. Breathtakingly gorgeous moments, such as "Like a Forest"'s pealing strings and poignant melody, and "Whore"'s build from delicate harmonies into a gently triumphant swell of guitars, vocals, and sparkling percussion reaffirm that Low have perfected and refined their sound. The finale, "In Metal," evolves from a melancholy ballad into one of the group's sunniest, most kinetic songs, mirroring the overall transformation of their music. A perfect match for its late-winter release date, Things We Lost in the Fire's slowly rising warmth and subtly hopeful tone not only make this Low's most cohesive, compelling collection, but one of 2001's best albums. (

Bilious Paths - (2003)

The first µ-Ziq release on Mike Paradinas' own Planet µ label since he debuted it with a 1997 double EP, Bilious Paths returns him full circle to the master-craftsman mayhem of that year's Lunatic Harness. And since it's also his first full-length not on a major-distributed label since 1995, Paradinas allowed himself a refreshing degree of latitude when it came to genre workouts (hardcore techno, junglistic dread madness, chilled experimental techno). Still, there isn't a track here that's not clearly, recognizably, obviously a µ-Ziq production, from the tympani-led symphonic majesty of "Octelcogopod" to the breezily shape-shifting melodies and pummeling beats of "Meinheld," with plenty of space for the lab-coat drill'n'bass he preferred during the late '90s. As usual, Paradinas is also slightly too humorous for his own good, both with his titles (the two-part "Grape Nut Beats") and with his productions ("On/Off," which repeats a naughty vocal sample far more than it deserves). Highlights abound, but this is definitely one for those used to the blend of heavy innovation and occasional inanity to be found on nearly every µ-Ziq record.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gentlemen - (1993)

The Afghan Whigs' sound was growing larger by the release during the days on Sub Pop, so the fact that Gentlemen turned out the way it did wasn't all that surprising as a result ("cinematic" was certainly the word the band was aiming for, what with credits describing the recording process as being "shot on location" at Ardent Studios). While Gentlemen is no monolith, it is very much of a piece at the start. While "If I Were Going" opens things on a slightly moodier tip, it's the crunch of "Gentlemen," "Be Sweet," and "Debonair" that really stands out, each of which features a tightly wound R&B punch that rocks out as much as it grooves, if not more so. Greg Dulli's lyrics immediately set about the task of emotional self-evisceration at the same time, with lines like "Ladies, let me tell you about myself -- I got a dick for a brain" being among the calmer points. The album truly comes into its own with "When We Two Parted," though, as sad countryish guitars chime over a slow crawling rhythm and Dulli's quiet-then-anguished detailing of an exploding relationship. From there on in, things surge from strength to greater strength, sometimes due to the subtlest of touches -- the string arrangement on "Fountain and Fairfax" or the unexpected, resigned lead vocal from Scrawl's Marcy Mays on "My Curse," for instance. Other times, it's all the much more upfront, as "What Jail Is Like," with its heartbroken-and-fierce combination of piano, feedback, and drive building to an explosive chorus. Dulli's blend of utter abnegation and masculine swagger may be a crutch, but when everything connects, as it does more often than not on Gentlemen, both he and his band are unstoppable. (

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Album & Bonus Tracks - (1977)

Proof that punk was more about attitude than a raw, guitar-driven sound, Suicide's self-titled debut set the duo apart from the rest of the style's self-proclaimed outsiders. Over the course of seven songs, Martin Rev's dense, unnerving electronics — including a menacing synth bass, a drum machine that sounds like an idling motorcycle, and harshly hypnotic organs — and Alan Vega's ghostly, Gene Vincent-esque vocals defined the group's sound and provided the blueprints for post-punk, synth pop, and industrial rock in the process. Though those seven songs shared the same stripped-down sonic template, they also show Suicide's surprisingly wide range. The exhilarated, rebellious "Ghost Rider" and "Rocket U.S.A." capture the punk era's thrilling nihilism — albeit in an icier way than most groups expressed it — while "Cheree" and "Girl" counter the rest of the album's hard edges with a sensuality that's at once eerie and alluring. And with its retro bassline and simplistic, stylized lyrics, "Johnny" explores Suicide's affinity for '50s melodies and images, as well as their pop leanings. But none of this is adequate preparation for "Frankie Teardrop," one of the duo's definitive moments, and one of the most harrowing songs ever recorded. A ten-minute descent into the soul-crushing existence of a young factory worker, Rev's tense, repetitive rhythms and Vega's deadpan delivery and horrifying, almost inhuman screams make the song more literally and poetically political than the work of bands who wore their radical philosophies on their sleeves. (

First Album

Bonus Tracks

Monday, October 12, 2009

Escape From Noise - (1987)

While the sound collage of Negativland's first three studio albums pointed in the band's ultimate direction, they were really rough sketches compared to Escape From Noise. Escape is a full-on audio assault, more musical than ever, but with tight and well-constructed sound sections thrown in. Instead of simply a collection of sounds and snippets, however, each cut on Escape From Noise picks a target and takes aim. "Quiet Please" takes on market research in the world of radio. "Michael Jackson" is a laundry list of pop stars being charged with creating commercial pop. "Sycamore" turns happy, shiny, new pre-planned communities into something far more sinister. Although some other tracks ("Yellow, Black and Rectangular," "Car Bomb") don't really take on particular targets, they're fun nonetheless. Probably the most accomplished piece is the strangely creepy "Time Zones," which talks about how many time zones there are in the Soviet Union (there are 11, by the way, and it's not even funny). Although it wasn't apparent at the time, the centerpiece of the album would be "Christianity Is Stupid," a prime example of how sound bites can be rearranged to say whatever you want them to say. (The full sound bites appear on the album Helter Stupid, the first half of which was inspired by a media frenzy after the band suggested that a murder may be attributable to "Christianity Is Stupid," as an excuse to get out of having to tour in the wake of this album, which turned out to be a much bigger success than anyone expected.) Scattered throughout the album are unexpected guest appearances from some of the biggest names in underground music, including Jello Biafra on "toilet flushing," the Residents on "hoots and clanging," and the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart on mouth sounds and "processed animals." In addition to better-constructed material, the production quality on Escape From Noise is also top-notch, making it a joy to listen to. Although future works would prove more controversial, this is probably Negativland's masterwork. (

The River Of Crime (Episodes 1-5 + Instrumental Suite) - (2006)

Throughout their career, the Residents have been storytellers. Many of their releases (if not most) have been concept albums with varying degrees of straight (or not so straight) narrative storyline. The River of Crime takes that a step further, offering what are basically a connected series of radio plays. They're stories from an unnamed narrator whose early childhood obsession with crime stories seems to attract crimes to him (although he maintains he is NOT a criminal, kind of like Tweedles). Each episode starts with an observation or historical background on some subject fascinating to the narrator (the electric chair, alligators in the sewer, perverse child molesters) before the subject matter eventually manifests itself somehow in the narrator's life: the only woman in Louisiana to die in the electric chair lived next door to his grandmother; one of his mother's friends was (presumably) fed to an alligator and the child sadist episode has the narrator himself being accused of molestation. Each episode is told by the narrator as remembrance, but each character (including the narrator as a younger man or child) has their own voice and there's something of a Greek Chorus that furthers the story periodically (a device used by the Residents before). Of course, the 'singing Resident' is the narrator, and the episodes take place in Louisiana (where the Residents are originally from), so is there an autobiographical element to these stories? Since it's the Residents, we'll almost certainly never know for sure (although they've dropped other personal tidbits from Louisiana in recent works like Demons Dance Alone DVD). The episodes vary in creepiness, but the Residents' very dark sense of humor is never far away. The music sets the scenes perfectly (especially the 'Termites' theme), but the second disc of instrumental versions demonstrates that the music works equally well by itself. There is the 'standard' Residents instrumentation, but there are also ambitious orchestral passages (the Film Orchestra of Bucharest appeared on the almost simultaneous release of Tweedles and probably appear here uncredited). Given their penchant for telling twisted stories, it's a bit surprising that the Residents took more than 35 years to eventually find their way to this particular storytelling format, but once again, they show that they're brilliant and unique in nearly every artistic medium. (

Part 1 (Episodes 1,2 & 3)

Part 2 (Episodes 4,5 & Instrumental Suite)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

ORANGE" Motion Picture Soundtrack - (1972)
The soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's nightmarish adaptation of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange captures the seedy, horrific images of the film perfectly. Years later, the synthesizers might sound a little dated, but the music itself is still supremely eerie, capable of conjuring frightening images on its own — it's nearly as scary as the movie.

WENDY CARLOS "A CLOCKWORK ORANGE" The Complete Original Score - (1972)

Even before Carlos knew of a film project concerning A Clockwork Orange, the composer had begun work on a composition (Timesteps) based on the book. It's the best piece of music in the score (and one of the most famed in the early history of electronic music), fitting in well next to late-'60s minimalist works by Terry Riley as well as the emerging Tangerine Dream (pre-Phaedra). Carlos also pioneered the effect of synthesized vocals (known as a vocoder), and their eerie nature perfectly complemented scenes from the film. Much of the rest of A Clockwork Orange is filled with rather cloying synthesizer versions of familiar classical pieces (from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, Rossini's The Thieving Magpie) similar to Carlos' previous Switched-On Bach recordings. Still, it's worthwhile if only for Timesteps. A Clockwork Orange was originally released as a Warner Bros. soundtrack, containing only film cuts (which edited Timesteps down from 13 minutes to only four). Though Carlos released another version with more music, that issue was superseded in 1998 by the release of A Clockwork Orange: Complete Original Score by East Side Digital in the label's comprehensive reissue program.

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