The "blind bluesman" is perhaps the dominant image of the genre, and one that evokes a number of associations. As noted by scholar Joesph Witek, the idea of the "blind genius" dates at least as far back as Homer. Given that many of these musicians were extraordinarily talented, their blindness might have fed popular interest in their music. However, blindness was almpso a debilitating condition for many of these men, especially in the rural South, so that the blind musician occupied a place of pity in the public mentality. Economic necessity is probably the most compelling argument for the relatively large number of blind blues musicians. Most African-Americans living in the South had few other possible careers outside of manual labor, and playing music was one of the few options left to a blind man. Even the schools for the blind offered musical education as part of their curriculum, and several musicians got their start in schools. Record companies were quick to play up the fact that their musicians were blind and the suffering that their condition brought them. Paramount Records' Book of the Blues, in its biography for Blind Lemon Jefferson, wrote "Can anyone imagine a more horrible fate than to find that one is blind?" But as writer Luigi Monge also points out, blindness also gave these musicians a certain degree of musical freedom. Cultural taboos barred most musicians from mixing gospel songs with secular songs. Blind musicians could skirt this barrier by virtue of their handicap; because they were playing music to make ends meet and had no other recourse, they could operate with relative immunity. As blind musicians often acted as mentors to young musicians, this fed the diffusion of the two genres into popular music.
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Blind Gary Davis

Blind Gary DavisBlind Gary Davis, also known as the Reverend Gary Davis, is one musician who captures the sacred aspect of the blues. Born in 1896 in South Carolina, he was one of eight children and became blind as an infant. He moved to Durham, North Carolina in the 1920s and became a street musician in what a burgeoning center of black culture in the South. In those years, record store owners often doubled as talent scouts, and Davis was discovered by a now-famous scout named J.B. Long in 1935. Gary Davis played in what is known as the Piedmont Style, which was a heavily syncopated fingerpicking that sounds akin to ragtime. In 1937, Gary Davis found religion and was ordained as a Baptist minister. From then on, the music he played was predominantly gospel, though he sometimes revisited his secular songs for white audiences. In 1940, Davis moved to Harlem, where he lived for the remainder of his life. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he never stopped making music, though his audience was now largely middle-class and white. He was renowned as one of the best guitar teachers in Harlem, offering advice to several future rock and folk stars, including Dave Bromberg, Taj Mahal and Jorma Kaukonen. Davis was a phenomenal guitar player with a powerful voice, and there are numerous tracks of his music worth checking out. "If I Had My Way" is one of those blues songs that was adopted by folkies and then rock musicians, and listening to Davis, one can understand why: Davis' shouts and hollers combine well with his nimble fingerpicking. "Death Don't Have No Mercy" is a darker song but still showcases so much of what made Davis memorable. Finally, "Cocaine Blues" is one of his most famous secular songs.1 Blind Gary Davis - "If I Had My Way" [audio:/mp3/Reverend-Gary-Davis_If-I-Had-My-Way.mp3|titles=Blind Gary Davis - If I Had My Way] Blind Gary Davis - "Death Don't Have No Mercy" [audio:/mp3/Reverend-Gary-Davis_Death-Dont-Have-No-Mercy.mp3|titles=Blind Gary Davis - Death Don't Have No Mercy] Blind Gary Davis - "Cocaine Blue" [audio:/mp3/Reverend-Gary-Davis_Cocaine-Blues.mp3|titles=Blind Gary Davis - Cocaine Blues]

Every year, we interview a number of musicians and artists about the intimate details and philosophical underpinnings of their album cover artwork. It's an ever-massive undertaking, but we make sure to include every genre, from doom metal to disco, minimal electronic to mainstream pop, with the intention of highlighting the best visual art, regardless of why or who created it. You can see entries from previous years here, and browse 2013's entries by either scrolling down or selecting a category below. > Narrative & Mythological Album Covers > Photographic Album Covers > Illustrative Album Covers > Mixed Media & Collage-Based Album Covers

To pay proper homage to the musical grandness of 2013 and to usher in the new year 2014, we've once again decided to call upon our tastemaker friends to compile their favorite up-and-comers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Here, Gina Altamura and Van Pham of the innovative, multimedia-minded nightclub Holocene give us the scoop on Portland bands to watch (and see their 2012 list here. Those who are interested in the Seattle scene can view the picks of the stylish boutique shop and venue, Cairo, here.
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Aan __ www.facebook.com/weareaan

I've believed wholeheartedly in the exceptional talent of Aan's Bud Wilson ever since I first heard his emotionally riveting avant-rock back in 2009. Fast-forward to the present, and Aan is experiencing a well-deserved breakout year. After extensive touring -- including a string of dates with the Smashing Pumpkins -- the band is in top form. Even in mid-size nightclubs, Aan puts on a show fit for an arena with their sheer dynamism and technical skill. Bud is a multi-faceted crooner, capable of delicate romance and ferocious vitriol alike, and he deftly charts a course across this wide emotional territory: a map of Amor Ad Nauseum (the title of Aan's excellent upcoming debut LP). With the recent addition of Brainstorm's Patrick Phillips -- ecstatic West African-influenced guitar shredder -- to the live band, I can only imagine 2014 will be even more exciting for this group. - GINA ALTAMURA (Editor's Note: Aan will be playing Holocene's next film score series, Fin De Cinema, on Purse Candy and Philip Grass; they will be scoring the Japanese animation, Night on the Galactic Railroad. See more details here. Their next record, Amor Ad Nauseum, drops February 1st, 2014.) ++ SEE: ALL POSTS RELATED TO AAN

Phone Call www.facebook.com/phonecallsound

An incarnation of Portland's favorite disco sons, Strength, Phone Call kicks it up a couple of decades with their hard-hitting hip-hop beats, and introduces more assertive synth lines in lieu of Strength’s guitar-heavy grind. It’s unabashedly -- if not absurdly -- sexy, with plenty of space for singer Bailey Winters’ charismatic swagger to shine through. There’s a little Prince, a little JT, and a gleeful dive into the deep reaches of boogie funk crate. Some wear your sunglasses at night/Miami Vice vibes or at least they’ll make you think that it’s getting a little hot in here... But there’s no mistaking: they’re here to make us dance, and maybe leave the place with somebody tonight. - VAN PHAM (Editor's Note: Phone Call play Holocene on New Year's Eve, with Le1f, Shy Girls, and PWRHAUS... along with DJ slots from Miracles Club and Radiation City. Details here.)

Natasha Kmeto __ www.natashakmeto.com/

Natasha Kmeto is a total badass. Unpoetic I know, but nonetheless the most satisfying descriptor for this futuristic soul diva. She's an expert at working a crowd, and as a solo performer relying on electronics, this is especially impressive. As a producer, her adventurous bass music is powerful and entrancing, while her vocal delivery is more captivating still. Her unabashed reflections on the vicissitudes of love and the trials of artistic ambition are belted out with incredibly authentic emotion, lending her music an immortal quality of spiritual resonance. - GINA ALTAMURA ++ SEE: ALL POSTS RELATED TO NATASHA KMETO + NATASHA KMETO INTERVIEW

To pay proper homage to the musical grandness of 2013 and to usher in the new year 2014, we've once again decided to call upon our tastemaker friends to compile their favorite up-and-comers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Here, James Scheall, Cameron McCreery, and Katherine Humphreys of Seattle's stylish boutique shop and venue Cairo throw out their wide-ranging picks for Seattle bands to watch. Those who are interested in the Portland scene can also check out the list compiled by the innovative nightclub, Holocene, here.
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Cock & Swan __ soundcloud.com/cockandswan

Cock & Swan’s Ola Hungerford and Johnny Goss are a couple of weirdos making beautifully intricate, often kaleidoscopic pop music. Layers of analog synths and bass guitar provide a hazy, warped framework for Hungerford’s subtle, dreamy vocals to build on. Their 2013 LP, Secret Angles, sounds like something you’d find under a stack of scratched-up Boards of Canada and Broadcast CDs, in the best way. Trippy in the least annoying way possible. - CAMERON MCCREERY

Black Hat __ blackhat.bandcamp.com/album/covalence-ep

Nelson Bean's music as Black Hat exists somewhere in the strange, hazy middle-ground between dance music and noise. Harsh drums and lurching bass give way to droning synths and eerily beautiful melodies in a constant vortex of sound. There is a definite darkness to Black Hat’s music, but it’s more than just a gothy occult obsession; there is a very natural, very real darkness at work here, one that will draw you in and never let go. Hypnotic head nods 'til the end. - CAMERON MCCREERY

La Luz __ laluz.bandcamp.com

Melancholic oohs and ahhs drift sweetly from rain to the Puget Sound, sung by the harmonious spirits of La Luz, who are taking the foggy beaches and rainy side-streets of Seattle by storm. Not only can they hang ten with their epic surf rock shredder tracks, but they've somehow have perfected the balance of drifter sadness and hilarious campiness. Not to mention, they totally survived an insane car accident and have bounced back like it’s no one’s business. Pick up their cassette via Burger or their LP via Hardly Art. - KATHERINE HUMPHREYS

A lot of the problem with viewing the universe as being comprised of matter comes with the idea that it's devoid of conscious experience somehow. More and more, little by little, we're starting to wake up to the insane limitations of this philosophy. Renders people humorless if you ask me. Nothing adds up, which creates profound existential desperation resonating throughout the collective psi-grid of humanity. There is no explanation for why anything happens, so we instead focus on how things go down in obsessive detail. Not to knock this approach, as it creates order by combining with the mystical chaos of internal infinity. Too much mystic psychic sizzle and you'll get torn to shreds, but when you look at only shared perceptual experience, you're editing out the vast majority of reality. It's all dark matter through those eyes. Endless blacked out pages on a declassified UFO report. What I've found is that by shifting models of reality interpretation just slightly from conceiving the world as being made of matter to one comprised from conscious experience, coherent macro concepts of conjoined narratives learning lessons throughout cycles of shifting lifetimes starts to take shape (which I talk about all the time on Facebook; friend me). When you start looking at things through the neo-Occult lens regarding the meaning of our existence as participants in a small cog of a much larger 5th dimensional art creation device, things begin to click into place on an even deeper level. Try it; it's fun. What works about this model is the fact that art is getting more plentiful and expansive by the day. Whether or not that was the purpose, that's what's happening. The average person now spends their time lost in a greater collective imagination in a way that wasn't even possible a decade ago. We've entered the era of the information addict. We're turning ourselves increasingly inward and tying together disparate narratives without asking why we're so unconsciously compelled to veer in that direction. I'm more helplessly entrenched than anyone, spending my time existent in my own celestial enclave of sonic enchantment. Fact of the matter is, more people are taking psychedelic drugs at this point in history than ever before. The loosening of the pot laws is just going to ensure that trend continues to spike upward. Unsurprisingly, this has created a congruent upsurge in fantastically brain-altering tunage. I can't even begin to keep up with it all, and I'm an obsessive music weirdo. For all intents and purposes, there are an infinite number of great albums being made every single year, but I'd say Joe Sixpack isn't truly aware of that fact. I can't imagine any of the records on this list sold a ton, which is sort of the problem and why you need geeks like me. Next time you want to trip out on the weekend rather than getting blitzed drunk, go pick up any of thesem and they'll serve to lift you on high rather than binding you to the lower dimensions. Now, I almost apologize, because there really should be more trip-hop and electronic freak outs on here in general -- that's where drug music is heading and has been since I was a kid. But I've listened to a lot of the higher profile releases this year and most of it was decent, and little of it struck me as sufficiently psyche-warping. I've got to dig deeper next year. I will say that Seattle's Debacle Records consistently brings the strange vibes (Editor's Note: See the mixtape they made for us earlier this year) -- and as if intentionally living up to our newly minted west coast weed city status, more great psychedelic albums came out of Seattle this year than ever, so this list is also a bit heavy on that because no one else is really talking about it. You've been warned.

"The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the very first time." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Bjorn Torske - KokOn his new EP Kok, occasional Röyksopp collaborator, Bjørn Torske relies on our abilities to remember, rather than forget, as the spur to engagement with and enjoyment of his music. Concerned, amongst other things, with aural and spacial effects, the record is born of experimentation with different instruments, objects, and their sonic footprints within different acoustic spaces. Merging a lo-fi folk aesthetic with elements of outsider experimentation this is an interesting progression from his last release of 2007, Feil Knapp. Whether through voice, instruments, or electronically-produced sounds, these emissions are deployed and recorded in various spaces to form an inspirational trigger in the creative process. Through this process of what is known as "worldizing", Torske seeks to escape the straitjacket of reverb plug-ins whose room emulations and mathematical logarithms are often predictable.

As the Northern Hemisphere goes full blast into the wintry days, those in the Southern Hemisphere are in for hotter and sweatier times, perfect for feel-good sounds that scream of sunshine and socialization more than darkness and hermitude. South African Music - Feel Good Mixtape Curated by UmliloAfter our experimental foray into South African house music proved to delight audiences domestically and abroad, we've invited the androgynous genre-hopping musician Umlilo to offer up a hand-picked selection of noteworthy South African musicians, as marked with the seal of approval by a local. So before we launch into the mixtape, complete with Umlilo's thoughtfully written track descriptions, please enjoy his latest music video for "The Elements", which shows off his interest in fashion, gender-bending, and explorations of vocal styles galore.

Umlilo - "The Elements" Music Video

Tape Recorder And Synthesizer Ensemble - T.R.A.S.E. Musician Interview
Manchester in 1981 was a grim place. Shuttered factories butted up against derelict lots, as dole queues wrapped around the block. A recession was rocking England; inter-class tension was running high, which would finally erupt into full-on riots in the summer of that year. Here, amidst the ruins of the Industrial Revolution, the future was being born. Factory Records was in full swing, defining what would become post-punk and new-wave. The synthpop of Duran Duran, New Order and the Human League was floating on the breeze, as The Fall were quoting sci-fi dystopians like William S. Burroughs. Being a kid at the time, Andy Popplewell was largely unaware of his bleak surroundings. He had his own struggles, like losing his father at the age of ten. An interest in music and electrical engineering helped him cope. Popplewell experienced the same media that much of '60s and '70s Britain did; he was reared with the music of Star Trek and Doctor Who, beginning his love of electronic music from an early age, and a rich, active imagination. Inspired by the synthetic sounds of the day and engineering magazines full of DIY projects, Andy Popplewell resolved to build a modest studio in his bedroom, with funds raised from odd jobs and a paper route, and the Tape Recorder And Synthesizer Ensemble (T.R.A.S.E.) was born.

Lumerians Band Interview - The High FrontierIt's an early afternoon the day after Lumerians have played their last show of the year, headlining on a Friday in late November at The Chapel in San Francisco. The night was something of a hometown multi-generational happening, as local turn-of-the-'80s industrial pioneers Factrix, sometimes described as "gothadelic" and definitely ahead of their time back in the day, made an uncommon live appearance. Such a lineup is a reminder that to be a band from the Bay Area and play anything approaching psychedelic rock is both a natural choice and one that surely comes with a keener sense of history and expectation than it would in almost any other region. Able heirs with omnivorous musical appetites, Lumerians seem aware of – but certainly not burdened by – any weight of legacy, instead infusing it into their experimental approach. Lumerians' second album, The High Frontier, is about different manifestations of exploration. The record is named after a somewhat obscure book from 1977 about mankind moving into outer space, written by Gerard K. O'Neill. I speak to bassist/vocalist Marc Melzer and drummer Chris Musgrave one afternoon, and as Melzer explains, O'Neill's book isn't really science fiction, but a thoughtful manifesto about the colonization of deep space by human beings – perhaps as a means of preserving a unique life form. The band -- which also includes guitarist/keyboardist Tyler Green, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jason Miller, and percussionist Tony Peluso – was drawn to the idea of moving toward uncharted internal and external territories.
"For us, music is about exploration. We may start down a traveled path, but our real objective is to discover what is beyond. We're no retro-fetishists, but it seems like the future used to be more boundless and inspired," explains Melzer. The High FrontierThe band was initially inspired by seeing some of the artwork that was created for O'Neill's book, and were subsequently drawn in by its forward-thinking perspective, as it wasn't really about the destruction or abandonment of Earth, but about "taking what was cool about humanity and moving into other places." Given the innumerable times and ways people have been inspired by that boundless realm above our heads, I ask Melzer what he thinks it is about mankind's relationship to outer space that makes it such a creative influence. "It's all about exploration... and just wondering what else is out there. Also, on top of that," he continues, "... just sort of seeing what other peoples' visions of other worlds and other states of being really is, because there's an infinite amount of different worlds out there, whether it's internal or external."

Saâda Bonaire - Self-Titled Album Review (Captured Tracks)The information boom of the last 15 years has given people a thirst for crate digging. What started on illicit pirate blogs has blossomed into a healthy industry of re-issue labels, and still, the race is on, to find the dustiest, mustiest rarity that no one has ever heard. Captured Tracks are drawing ahead of the pack, with their Shoegaze Archive series and now the Fantasy Memory imprint, curated by the seasoned vinyl archaeologist Andy Grier, of Thieves Like Us. This binge of eclectic listening has opened our ears to totally unknown movements like European coldwave, minimal synthesis, mutant disco, funk, and every permutation of world music. In this rich and ripe polycultural climate, perhaps we are finally ready to receive the worldbeat exoticism of Saâda Bonaire. Even after 15 years of listening to absolutely everything, Saâda Bonaire are entirely eclectic. The project began at a club night in Bremen as a pop-art project between DJ Ralph"“von" Richtoven and two vocalists, Stephanie Lange and Claudia Hossfeld. Inspired by the cross-cultural fusion of Afro-Caribbean music in America, and Rai and West African music in France, Saâda Bonaire sought to combine underground dance sounds of its day, 1982, with their own local flavor, Turkish and Kurdish folk music. They recorded the lead single, "You Can Be All That You Are", which combines brittle synthpop and slippery digital funk with Middle Eastern instruments and detached, incantatory vocals. It's a stone-eyed groove, perfect to transfix the intercontinental, and all was going well. Unfortunately, it was the only single the band would record. Their A&R man for EMI had a reputation for going over budget, had spent five times his allotment on Tina Turner's Private Dancer, and was already three times overspent with Saâda Bonaire. EMI put out "You Can Be As You Are" b/w "Invitation" and pulled the plug, and the rest is history.