here be brief reviews

February 27, 2007

If you live in temperate climes like Pittsburgh, you probably have noticed that once it gets to be below about ten degrees, it for the most part is really difficult to discern even otherwise considerable temperature variations; the difference between 1°F and 9°F is, as far as I’m concerned, largely negligible. Likewise for temperature variations above, say, 85°: is it 88 or is it 95? Is that practically useful knowledge?

Rhys Chatham’s “A Crimson Grail (For 400 Electric Guitars)” is much-anticipated and got a good Pitchfork review that has people talking about it, for whatever that’s worth. The big question here is whether it’s meaningful in the least to attempt to translate a performance of 400 electric guitars in a huge church into a recording and then release that on a CD. Is there a discernable difference on a compact disc between what comes out of 20 guitars or 50 guitars or 400? In short, I say, not really, but that doesn’t make the disc any less enjoyable or valuable.

The compositions are pure Chatham: minimalist pieces done in a maximalist style. The guitars roll like in a Phill Niblock drone, folding into one another. At a certain point, Jonathan Kane finally breaks in with his signature steady-does-it drumbeat, but it never becomes overwhelming.

It’s nothing as groundbreaking as seeing the spectacle in person would have been, but “A Crimson Grail” is a worthy addition to your collection if you like Chatham (or Branca, or Niblock, or whomever).

My other purchase over the weekend was from the used rack: Nobukazu Takemura’s “scope.” This is five tracks of glitchy electronic noise mixed with beautiful soundscapes, released by Thrill Jockey in 1999. Certain parts (especially “Taw”) go a bit too far toward disorganized bloopiness for me to enjoy listening, but overall, the good parts (the gorgeous “Kepler” sticks out) make it a worthwhile listen.


quick addendum

February 25, 2007

Here’s a good story: a friend was at the South Side Goodwill today and found a copy of my band’s split with Belegost. On a shelf next to two fiber optic Christmas trees and one spinning rim. That’s a lot more extreme than showing up on the used rack at the Record Exchange. I like it.

lovely frida

February 25, 2007

My favorite news of the past few days is that Frida Hyvönen is playing at the Warhol on March 9, supporting Under Byen, apparently the best band in Denmark or the world or something. It sounds to be a stellar time; I’ll be getting my ticket soonly.

Also, yesterday, I got a couple new records, which I’ll review for you soon — one was the Rhys Chatham 400 electric guitars recording, the other was Nobukazu Takemura’s “Scope.” That will come soon — right now I have some work to take care of. Seeya.


February 22, 2007

Okay, you asked for it, and you’re getting it. These are the things that are happening this weekend that I’m amped on. Do note that my being amped on them does not imply my presence at every last one; in fact, given that some will be occurring simultaneously in different places, that would be impossible. I will be attending SOME of these things.

  • Friday: Jefferson Presents at Garfield Artworks. $5, $4 for students, 8pm, excellent films, often funny banter over top of said films. This month’s screening (the seventh anniversary of JP) features a healthy dose of Rose Lowder, which should make it well worth the Lincoln you lay down.
  • Friday: Benefit party thing for The Big Idea radical bookstore. At Belvedere’s, Butler St. in Lawrenceville, starts at 10pm sharp, features DJ Mary Mack and the Cap City DJ’s (featuring friend Kevin).
  • Friday: Sun Tornado release show at Gooski’s, Polish Hill. 10pm, meaning probably closer to 11? Except there are three bands, which means maybe it’ll start closer to on time. With Harangue, Italian Ice (Paul Q and Sam Pace).
  • Friday: The Big Throwback at the Brillobox — funk and soul dance night that’s always a blast. DJ Nicerec is spinning this month; I just realized recently that I know that dude from way back.
  • Saturday: (((microwaves))), Double D and Torus at the Underground, basement of the CMU dorm at the corner of Forbes and Morewood. 8pm, free.
  • Saturday: Ludlow, Burndowns (features Bill from Poison Arrow etc. and Steve from the Radio Beats and the 7 Inch Slam blog), and The Weakness. 10pm, Sonny’s Tavern on Millvale by the bridge that goes over the busway.

I guess this should be the weekend where we cart in everyone from out of town and drive them around to all the different stuff going on and show them what an exciting town this is. Then next weekend when nothing’s going on, we return to our caves and wait a month or two for another weekend like this.

critical update

February 21, 2007

So, for the most part, I find music writing to be relatively boring and not that notable (that’s not to say that I think it’s EASY, or that I could do a great job at it). However, I would like to point out that Monica Kendrick of Chicago Reader is wonderful to read, and you owe it to yourself to read the Crickets blog on the Reader’s website, if only to keep up with her posts. (As an aside, I wish there was a way on their multiple-author blogs to filter by author, but whatever.) I don’t spend that much time giving pats on the back, so take this seriously. Thank you.

space filler, time killer

February 20, 2007

Well, I guess I’m kind of busy lately, and when I’m not busy, I’m very tired. I started a post about some stupid old guys I saw on C-SPAN this weekend, but I haven’t had the time/motivation to finish it. Some weeks you just chill. Read the folks in the sidebar there, and I’ll work on finishing up this thing about the old guys and I’ll tell you about all the stuff that’s going on in Pittsburgh this weekend, at some of which I’ll most likely be present (AWKWARD SENTENCE).


I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend, which involves me often not telling you, reader-friend, about the shows and events that I’m excited about and planning on attending. I’m not sure why this is, but I regret it because if I had played it up some, maybe, JUST MAYBE, more than a handful of people would’ve been at the Lawrenceville Moose last night to witness Savage Republic. Slightly embarrassing turnout and slightly uncomfortable banter from Thom Fuhrmann aside, the show was one of those not-to-be-missed ones; perhaps the oil drums weren’t flaming, but they were there, and before the end of the night one of them was definitely kicked offstage. The set itself had its high and low points, and at points it was tough to tell what Fuhrmann was up to (not taking it seriously? having fun joking around with us? annoyed with the fact that this weird show was stuck in between a couple presumably killer shows in Chicago and NYC?), but the striking thing was that this didn’t have the feel of a bunch of guys who were doing this when I was an infant; they still carry an energy that most current band trying the same tricks just don’t have. (By way of an aside, the only reason they came back out for a second encore was, I believe, because we kept clapping because Roman was on the stage right after they left it, and it was funny. Good thing that happened, because the second encore was phenomenal and made me essentially forget all but a few brief highlights of the rest of the set.)

Sweet sets from Tamburo (decidedly “acoustalyptic,” yes) and (((microwaves))) sweetened the deal, as did the fact that Manny was really stoked on Savage Republic, and I rarely see him actually stoked on anything, much less a band that’s playing.

On tap for the rest of the weekend: chill time with the family, a little bit of birthday revelry for the eldest nephew (16!) (not even kidding).