on The North Borders

The recording artist / DJ known as Bonobo released “The North Borders” last week, and made Washington D.C. the first tour stop in support of the album. The songs came to life on stage, energized by complex layers of live drums, keys, saxophone, clarinet, bass, and a host of other instruments. The electronic genre, lately dominated by house and ‘dubstep,’ owes a great credit to Bonobo for expanding the possibility of what can be done in a masterfully orchestrated mix of jazz, two-step, big beat, and ambient chillout. Vocalist Szjerdene contributes to the album on the tracks “Towers” and “Transits,” and is along for the tour. She silenced (and amazed) the crowd with her soft, soulful style and substituted for Andreya Triana on some of the older tracks from ‘Black Sands.’ The North Borders opens with ‘First Fires,’ a brilliant track with an epic atmosphere that captures the apprehensive spirit of …

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on Love in the Time of… Hatebreed

Often resulting in injuries [4], the collective mood is influenced by the combination of loud, fast music (130 dB [5], 350 beats per minute), synchronized with bright, flashing lights, and frequent intoxication [6]. This variety and magnitude of stimuli are atypical of more moderate settings. Jesse L. Silverberg, “Collective Motion of Moshers at Heavy Metal Concerts.”  Cornell University, 2013.  The week before Valentines Day the top of the Billboard charts featured plenty of easy songs about romance – The Lumineers Ho Hey, Calvin Harris Sweet Nothings, Taylor Swift I Knew You Were Trouble. And for the first time in their 15 years of touring, the furious tracks by metal rockers Hatebreed crashed into the Billboard top 20.  On a night that some people reserve for Sinatra and soft lighting, the band spent this Valentines Day screaming from a stage in Virginia to a wild crowd. Whether in Buffalo or Raleigh, Jacksonville …

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to Robyn, on Being ‘Robotboy’

Hey Robyn! I was just listening to your song, ‘Robotboy,’ and I thought I’d answer all the questions you had. I hope this response relieves some of your worry: “Where you been?” I’ve been at work, or at home, or any of the other various places I go. I make a determined effort to find new ground as often as possible, even if it’s just a little thing – a new corner of a room to stand in, a new place to eat tofu, or a new building that would look nice in a photograph. ‘Where’ is an interesting concept. Sometimes I think of ‘here’ as more than just the place I’m sitting, or what city I’m in. Could ‘where’ also be a place I’m thinking of? Is where just the few square feet around my body? Is it everywhere I’m capable of being within a certain amount of minutes? …

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on Discovering Electronic Dance Music

I think the first really ‘electronic’ record that caught my attention was a remix of Everything but the Girl’s ‘Missing’. It’s really more of a pop song, but the traces of house were enough to send me looking for more. In the mid-90s, I found a compilation of dance tracks on a CD that I would spin up while playing video games, a digital soundscape to match the virtual experience of driving a pixelated car through an imaginary city. EDM didn’t feel like my main genre, never one that I could come to instinctively  any time I wanted to hear a tune, but it carved out a space in my stereo that I needed to visit from time to time. When Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ was featured in the closing scene of the Trainspotting film, I felt like I had discovered something amazing – a transcendent experience, an auditory escape that seemed otherworldly, …

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Another Trip to the Record Store

I made another trip to the local used CD shop, and left with a few bargains. I’m dumb to how the economic machinery of the music business works, and whether store-shopping is better for the musicians than iTunes – regardless, it’s nice to lose track of time while thumbing through the ‘G-H’ section looking for something fresh. Foals – Antidotes //// This album is full of tight acoustic breakbeats, bright guitar melodies, and the occasional horn blast. Without relying on heavy effects, Foals creates a dreamy soundscape that’s easy to get lost in. My neighbors are going to be hearing this one at 7 a.m. for a while – sorry about that! Broken Bells //// The brilliance of Danger Mouse was evident when he mashed up the Beatles and Jay-Z for the ‘Grey Album’, and this collaboration with the Shins’ James Mercer explores new territory – angsty pop with lush strings …

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A Trip to the Record Store

I’ve been getting nostalgic for the feel of plastic discs in my hands, so instead of sitting in my office and distractedly browsing Spotify, I went out to a few used record stores and came home with a bag full of music. Here’s what I copped – Basement Jaxx – Rooty  ////  The single ‘Always Be There’ showed up on my hard drive some time a few years ago, and catches up to my headphones every now and again. Its such a solid track, I’m going to give the rest of their tunes some overdue rotation. First listen of ‘Rooty’ already has me hooked. Kasabian – Empire  ////   Kasabian’s self-titled album from 2004 was amazing. I played the hell out of it, and saw them do a great show in Tampa, FL in ’06. The album was so good, I never bothered listening to any follow ups – until now! …

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On Rememberance (MCA, RIP)

If anybody remembers the first time they heard the Beastie Boys, good for them. I don’t. I do remember a general constant presence of their tracks in the soundscape of my life over the last 15 years. I probably got started with Check Your Head – in the 7th grade, making videos where my friends and I jumped around and lipsynched, throwing cardboard boxes at each other, smashing shit – our school let us broadcast it on the Friday video announcements, forever casting us as the raw funky fresh crew that tore up the middle school flow with unashamed idolization of hip hop heroes. Hello Nasty dropped and we were all like “so it is possible to stay fresh, FOREVER.” Something to strive for. To The 5 Boroughs hit and made me feel like even DC was getting better after 9/11. With so much heartbreaking music out there to turn …

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Questions on HoloPac

Why is the first major appearance of the technology recreating a personality who already has so much available content? Why not someone who has never materialized to the popular imagination in a moving visual form?  (Jesus, Lincoln, Bethoven) Who holds the rights to someone’s likeness after they pass? Did 2Pac’s family have any legal authority over his re-creation? Will his copyright holders get any royalties from the performance? Was this only possible with 2pac because of the pre-recorded vocals?  Would the performance have been interesting if live performers weren’t also collaborating? Who is writing tweets for @HologramTupac? Was the account conceived before the show? The jokes are brilliant. Credit to the Atlantic for making me think beyond “wow, that’s cool.” http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/04/hologram-tupac-was-inevitable/255990/#

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On Performing

I tried open mic night. Sitting in front of a few strangers with a guitar was different from my younger performance experiences, in which I screamed to a bunch of friends while more friends played instruments. So I fat fingered a bunch of chords and had trouble singing straight into the mic, and forgot some words and didn’t look up at the crowd.  But I can keep trying, until someone hits me with a tomato. Set list- Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers White Stripes – Fell in Love with a Girl Sublime – Badfish

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Finding the Arcade Fire

 Seven years ago, when I was working as a clerk at Tower Records, a kid came in and asked about “The Arcade Fire.” I had no idea what he was talking about, and this was during a time when customers asked me questions that I couldn’t answer, I usually got irritated and went outside to smoke. Something about this kid – he was younger than me, and innocent looking – made me think I should try and help him out. I thumbed through every overflowing pile of discs in the huge store, ticking off at least half of an hour, looking for “Funeral.” It was out there somewhere, and when I found it and handed it over to him, I felt some kind of pride. “A satisfied customer!” I had no idea that in 2012 I’d be watching them perform songs from “The Suburbs” on the TV show Austin City …

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