Psychedelic electronic music lost one of its leading lights on July 20, 2015, when pioneering kosmische musician Dieter Moebius succumbed to a longstanding battle with cancer, leaving behind a constellation of friends, family, and artistic collaborators to mourn his passing and reflect on his legacy. To commemorate his passing, the German...

An imposing wall of rotary dials, turreted by oscilloscopes, draped in spaghettied cables, emitting a series of creaks, groans, and unearthly bubbles, is one of the most iconic images of electronic music. These monolithic machines -- known as modular synthesizers -- have had an enormous impact on how we visualize...

Swami & The Blind Shake Album ReviewInstrumental surf music has achieved a place in modern culture that seems to be at odds with its origins. The roaring breakers, the blue sky and the bright Californian sun suggest a music that should be joyous; however, within the lexicon of this genre there is an ever present dark undertow. It is this contradictory presence -- this sense of danger and even evil, that has, since it's emergence into the mainstream around 1961, given this music its enduring appeal. Bands like The Fireballs, The Spotnicks, The Ramrods and The Surfaris pioneered this unhinged, amped (oh yes, I am using original '60s surf slang here) celebration of the wipeout and the quasimoto. Their West Coast and Hawaiian sound, washing up as far away as the shores of the UK in the form of the Shadows, was popular throughout the world in 1960s and 1970s. The modern reinvigoration of surf rock is accredited by many to the use by Quentin Tarantino of "Bullwinkle Pt II" by the Centurions and "Surf Rider" by The Lively Ones in Pulp Fiction (1994). However, this peculiar and hyperactive music, that seems to go so well with murderous and terrifying imagery, influenced a good many bands much earlier, including the B-52s and the Cramps in 1980s. One thing is, however, certain: since Pulp Fiction this music has been overused in a great many media campaigns. Over the last twenty years, it has surfaced in adverts for everything from toothpaste to banks and, because of this, there was a distinct danger that this evocative music might just become a part of our culture's aural wallpaper and be stripped of any potency. Which brings us to the new album, Modern Surf Classics, by Swami & The Blind Shake. Both authentic and imaginative in its approach this album captures the spirit of the original music, whilst successfully recasting it for the 21st century. The combination of the propulsive and bombastic energy of Minneapolis' own psych punk combo, The Blind Shake, along with John Reis' instrumental brilliance, has produced an album that carries the listener forward on a groundswell of pure and brilliant energy.

 

Musicians tend to attract quirky nicknames, and more than a few of them stick for life. Louis Armstrong was Satchmo, Coleman Hawkins was Bean, Charlie Parker was Bird, and Lester Young was known as Prez or Tickle Toe. Sometimes they take over an artist's identity. When Furry Lewis was asked in the 1970s how he came to be known as "Furry", he responded that he couldn't remember anymore. In this mix, I'll go through five of my favorite musicians with cool sobriquets. Of course, I'm leaving a lot of people off of this list, but here are a few of the really outstanding ones.
See all Forgotten Gems & Dusty Classics Posts

Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter

Huddie Lead Belly LedbetterHuddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter was a crucial figure bridging blues music and folk music. Bob Dylan joked that he's probably the only convicted murderer to record a popular children's album. Born in 1888, Lead Belly was in and out of prison for much of his life for a murder and an attempted murder, yet his musical talents earned him repeated pardons. He was a human jukebox, able to play in numerous different styles based on what his audiences wanted and was proficient on six-string guitar, twelve-string guitar, and the accordion. When John Lomax "discovered" him, he secured release his release from prison and employed him as a driver while Lead Belly established himself in the New York musical scene. He became famous rather quickly, and he toured Europe before his death in 1948. His records have been reprinted numerous times since then, and he has been covered by rock acts from Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bob Dylan to Nirvana. Lead Belly's nickname has numerous possible explanations, none of them definitive. One theory held that he was shot with a shotgun in the stomach and survived -- a possibility given his violent life. Another theory is that he earned the nickname drinking the homemade liquor inmates offered him in prison. Among his most famous songs, "Midnight Special" stands out and has been covered numerous times. "Goodnight Irene" is another song he helped to popularize. Finally, "Boll Weevil" is another great Lead Belly song about the Boll Weevil epidemic that ravaged the cotton-growing regions of the South.1 Lead Belly - "Midnight Special" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Lead-Belly_Midnight-Special.mp3|titles=Midnight Special] Lead Belly - "Goodnight Irene" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Lead-Belly_Goodnight-Irene.mp3|titles=Goodnight Irene] Lead Belly - "Boll Weevil" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Lead-Belly_Boll-Weevil-Song.mp3|titles=Boll Weevil]  
When it's summer, I want to hear blisteringly hot dance numbers or mellow jams from the torrid regions of the world. I've based this mix on artists from Latin America and the Caribbean; some of it's hot, some of it's mellow, and all of it is good for letting your mind wander to somewhere a bit more exotic. Be warned: finding sources for some of these musicians in English can be a challenge. But that makes the hunt all the more enjoyable. Summer in the Northern Hemisphere ends on September 22nd, so warm yourself up with these jams one last time.
Warm Winds REDEFINE mixtape  
Captured Tracks has figured out that the formula to creating a successful label is to have no specific formula: just do what feels right, and do it for the artists, not for yourself. The Brooklyn-based record label works hard at getting new artists exposure rather than getting themselves exposure; they've built up a reputation as a great label on word of mouth, and label owner Mike Sniper uses his intuition when making big decisions.
Captured Tracks Record Label Feature
"We're a young company going about the music industry in what we think is the standard way, but it turns out we've been doing it pretty differently. There's no ethos or philosophy, per se. We're not looking for our label to be the topic of a release; we want the artist to be the focus. If exploiting whatever C/T is helps get a new artist's music out in the world, than that's great." - Mike Sniper, Founder of Captured Tracks

 

Brian Reitzell Retrospective Feature
Kraftwerk's 1974 album, Autobahn, was inspired by the feeling of traveling freely along the open German motorways it was named after. Forty years later, a different driving journey serves as a guiding force behind Brian Reitzell's debut album, Auto Music: Reitzell's commute to and from work in Los Angeles. Its motorik kinship with other Krautrock greats is keenly present on tracks like "Auto Music 1", echoing as it does Can's formative free-form instrumentation and the metronomic pulse of Neu!. In that sense, the song and album's influences feel expertly curated--which isn't surprising, given that Reitzell is the same man who is responsible for the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey" playing over the closing scene in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation--as well as getting My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields to contribute to that film's soundtrack after a long spell out of the spotlight. As he explained recently in an interview with The New York Times Style Magazine, Brian Reitzell arrived at his current position of being a music supervisor and composer (or "music conceptualist", as he considers himself) by way of his previous stint serving as the drummer for long-running California rock band Redd Kross during the 1990s. It was during his time in the band that he met Sofia Coppola, who sought him out to help put together the soundtrack for her first full-length film, The Virgin Suicides. He ended up pulling double duty by working with Air to compose and perform the score for the film as well. Since then, he has been at the helm for the soundtracks to almost all of Coppola's films, among others, making a name for himself in very individualistic ways.

 

"What appeals to me is the potency in the image -- the object itself, or the mysterious atmosphere it holds. A truly beautiful image has the power open up this whole inner world; it's like a visual "key" that unlocks and fires up your imagination." - Alice Cohen...

Woman's Hour - Conversations LP
Listeners first encounter Conversations, the debut record by United Kingdom musicians Woman's Hour, through striking monochrome visual imagery. Black and white can be seen in everything from their album artwork and press photos to their music videos, serving not only to unify the band's music, but to incorporate their underlying interests and philosophies as well. Responsible for their visual branding is Frank and Jane, a collaboration between Woman's Hour frontwoman Fiona Jane Burgess and artist Oliver Chanarin. This article features a Q&A with Burgess and all-encompassing look at the visual collateral connected to the record, to demonstrate how the experience Woman's Hour is crafting is truly an interdisciplinary and thoughtful one.
Woman's Hour - Conversations Music Video

 

The recently launched Tumblr blog, Experimental Music on Children's TV, is the work of Mike Haley from the cassette podcast Tabs Out. Though the project features contemporary shows, the most fascinating entries are YouTube clips of earlier children's programming. We see Mister Rogers playing an ARP Soloist (the Pro version was used by Vangelis and Tangerine Dream); we hear a frenetic, minimalist Philip Glass mini-opera for geometric groupings of animated circles in a Sesame Street short. Advertising composer Suzanne Ciani, a protégé of synthesizer builder Don Buchla and computer-music innovator Max Mathews, appeared on 3-2-1 Contact in 1980, to demonstrate the use of an Oberheim OB-X and a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. REDEFINE chatted with Haley about the runaway success of EMoCTV and the inspiration behind it.
Experimental Music on Children's TV Blog (EMoCTV)