Laughter

the human race has one really effective weapon


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2014 Year in Review, Pt. 1 (Dusted in Exile)

Normally I’d post a lengthy year in review here, but this time around I’m just going to link to the Dusted and Brainwashed year-end lists I was a part of, then maybe cap it off with a list of last minute records I heard or ordered that I think deserve some attention.

So, here’s a snippet from my Dusted writeup. Much more after the link. And take some time to look at what the other writers had to say about their 2014 favorites. There is lots of good stuff from everyone involved:

This year was filled with great music from start to finish. There wasn’t a single month that didn’t see the release of something exciting. As winter approached, the continuous flood of exceptional recordings became increasingly hard to follow. By June, keeping up had become little more than a laughable daydream, never mind everything that came out between October and December. Lots of people probably feel this way every December, but 2014 was the year I was swept away. 

Looking back at the time line, it’s easy to see why. Tara Jane O’Neil and Damien Jurado released their records in January, Anne Guthrie’s Codiaeum Variegatum bowled me over in February, and the Toshiya Tsunoda/Manfred Werder collaboration landed in March. Politiken der Frequenz rolled out in April and Carl Hultgren’s first solo album won me over at the end of May. I married my wife in June and shortly thereafter started new work, where listening to new music every day wasn’t part of the job. Erstwhile had already put out the Jürg Frey and Radu Malfatti 2CD by that time, in July. Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet’s The Abyss came out with it and a month later the new FKA Twigs was on the shelves. That one was less impressive than I had hoped, but it still spent a lot of time inside my head. 

And these are just the first albums that come to mind. Coppice, Florian Hecker, LCC, Machinefabriek, Poemss, Protomartyr, Sun Kil Moon, SunnO)))/Ulver, and Nicholas Szczepanik all issued new music in that same period, all worth hearing.

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Three Concerts: Michael Pisaro, Kevin Drumm + Jason Lescalleet, Joe Panzner + Greg Stuart

Photos from three shows in Boston, Massachusetts: November 6th, 7th, and 11th (2014). Music by Michael Pisaro, Antoine Beuger, Eugene A. Kim, Teodora Stepančić, Assaf Gidron, Adi Snir, Kevin Drumm, Jason Lescalleet, Joe Panzner, and Greg Stuart. Photos include program details. Click for larger versions.


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Jason Lescalleet and Kevin Drumm on the Road

As reported by Tiny Mix Tapes:

11.07.14 – Somerville, MA ­ – Hassle Fest VI (156 Highland Ave.) *
11.08.14 – Montréal, QC ­ – La Vitrola ­(4602 Boulevard Saint­Laurent) *
11.09.14 – Toronto, ON ­ – Double Double Land ­ (209 Augusta Ave.) *
11.10.14 – Detroit, MI ­ – Trinosophes ­(1464 Gratiot Ave.) *
11.11.14 – Lafayette, IN ­ – The Spot ­(409 S 4th St. Wednesday)
11.12.14 – Cleveland OH ­ – Now That’s Class ­ (11213 Detroit Ave.)
11.13.14 – Albany, NY ­ – Upstate Artist’s Guild ­ (247 Lark Street)
11.28.14 – Mexico City, Mexico – Festival del Bosque Germinal *

* Kevin Drumm & Jason Lescalleet

This Is What I Do Volume Two is currently available from Lescalleet’s Bandcamp site. It will be deleted upon completion of Volume Three, so get it while you can.


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The Monthly List: April and May’s Top 21 Albums

A short and sweet “Monthly” this time around. Lots of changes on the horizon for me, including new work. Reviews will still come, probably at about the same rate, maybe slower, though this may be the last thing I put on the blog until the end of the month. My goal is always to write more, but coming home from one eight hour job and jumping right into another that requires an equal amount of hard work (or more) can be tiring.

Expect more, but smaller posts, and maybe a series of much briefer reviews to help get through all the amazing music that’s coming out this year (or that has already been out for awhile).

Links to my favorite sites for reviews and information can now be found in the sidebar. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.com, Dusted, Just Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat are good places to go if you’re looking for the more obscure stuff.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Further record-buying resources can be found in the sidebar as well.

  • Carl Hultgren, Tomorrow on BLUE FLEA (CD)
  • Windy & Carl, I Walked Alone/At Night on BLUE FLEA (7″)
  • Good Area, Cubic Zirconia/Bad Karlshafen on KYE (7″)
  • Fennesz, Bécs on EDITIONS MEGO (CD)
  • COH, To Beat on EDITIONS MEGO (CD)
  • Coppice, Vantage/Cordoned on CADUC. (CD)
  • Venetian Snares, Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding on PLANET MU (CD)
  • Photek, Risc vs Reward on ASTRALWERKS (CD)
  • Marcus Schmickler & Julian Rohrhuber, Politiken der Frequenz on EDITIONS MEGO/TOCHNIT ALEPH (MP3)
  • Jason Lescalleet, Electronic Music on RRR (LP)
  • Jason Lescalleet, Much to My Demise on KYE (LP)
  • Robert Beatty, Soundtracks for Takeshi Murata on GLISTENING EXAMPLES (LP)
  • Kyle Bobby Dunn, … and the Infinite Sadness on STUDENTS OF DECAY (MP3)
  • Ambarchi/O’Malley/Dunn, Shade Themes from Kairos on DRAG CITY (MP3)
  • Wen, Signals on KEYSOUND RECORDINGS (MP3)
  • Angus MacLise, The Cloud Doctrine on SUB ROSA (2CD)
  • Kuupuu, Sous Juju on EM RECORDS (2CD)
  • Loren Connors, Night Through: Singles and Collected Works 1976-2004 on FAMILY VINEYARD (3CD)
  • Jack Rose, Kensington Blues on VHF RECORDS (LP)
  • Shirley Collins, Sweet England on FLEDG’LING RECORDS (CD)
  • The Clean, Anthology on MERGE (2CD)


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Review: Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “Photographs” (Erstwhile)

After amplifying their homes and magnifying the subconscious; after reshaping kitchenware into instruments and finding voices in the buzz of computer fans, distant traffic, and the crunch of dirt; after transforming the spaces around them and constructing a space-time of their own, Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet finally turn the microphones on themselves. And not just on the noises they make, but on the places they grew up, on the people they’ve known, on the ideas that have driven their work, the sounds they love, and ultimately on the past and their memories. Don’t come to the show expecting self-portraits though. OnPhotographs Graham and Jason make enigmas of themselves. We get to see a shadow of them in these pictures, but everything they do and every event they capture points to a subject somewhere outside the frame.

Photographs work by suggestion. Take any photo off the Internet and start asking questions about it: Who is that in the picture? What is it that they’re standing in front of? When and where was it taken, and why from that angle? Who is behind the camera? What we see in them and what they show are inevitably unequal. The image presents the viewer with an apparent set of facts, but without context or witnesses or some personal experience bringing everything into focus, the subjects fail to take definite shape. Something is missing.

So it is with Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet’s music. The apparition of familiarity presents itself to the listener by dint of the material employed: intelligible conversations, fixable locations and precise directions to them, a loop from Kiss’s “Great Expectations”—our acquaintance with sights and sounds such as these, plus the incredible artwork with family, friends, place names, and the images of Graham and Jason as children—it’s as if they’re opening a door into their personal lives, or pointing us to a keyhole through which we might spy a handful of their private thoughts. How could it be otherwise?

To answer that question it’s best to ask another one: what is it that we actually see and hear in these songs? Disc one in this two-disc set begins with “Loss,” in which a pair of anonymous voices explain what the word “loss” means to them. One of the respondents discusses the loss of their grandparents, the other describes a feeling of daily disorientation: he wakes up and is unsure of where he is despite a firm mind, familiarity with the local geography, and a copy of this year’s calendar. As he elaborates, the audio suddenly cuts out. We hear clicking, a compartment opening and shutting, as if the tape needed changing mid-sentence, and then the conversation continues.

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Review: Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “Air Supply” (Erstwhile)

A strange spectacle murmurs unceremoniously just beneath the familiar hum of daily life. It’s filled with little dramas and peculiar collisions that sneak by unnoticed—in the empty spaces of the room, out of the corner of your eye—small bits of information slip through the senses’ fingers and fall into the subconscious where they become fodder for dreams. These unremembered fragments are a part of every environment and every observation, but would we recognize them if given a second chance? OnAir Supply, Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet resurrect such mental refuse and put just such a question to the test. They may have pointed their microphones at computer vents or the back yard, but what they pulled from those sources is utterly bizarre, to the point of being completely alien.

“Because the Night” starts the show with an illusion. It’s cold outside. Someone is walking down a crunchy dirt road in heavy boots, the fabric of his thick winter coat audibly brushing against itself as he goes. He picks up an old shovel and begins digging a hole, or maybe shoveling snow. A chilly hum floats in the air, a substitute for the icy temperature outside. As he digs, a slow, warbling howl suddenly and shockingly pierces the scene. It moans, then fades, then retreats into the distance. The perspective shifts. Someone tinkers with a plastic box, presses a button, and the activity stops. There’s only that transparent blue tone in the air, and a few quiet noises beeping somewhere in the distance. Winter at the Lescalleet home in Berwick, Maine, where Air Supply was recorded, seems just a tad frightening.

Only the liner notes tells us that the album was recorded in late May of 2010. It’s unlikely there was any snow on the ground to shovel. The fabric noise could be coming from torn sheets of paper, the crunch of boots on gravel might actually be the sound of someone walking through piles of leaves, and who knows where the animal moan came from, but it doesn’t sound dubbed in. Whatever it was, it was right there, in range of the microphone.

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Review: Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “The Breadwinner”

Imagine music resides everywhere that sound can travel. It flows from the faucet into the sink each morning, creaks out of the loose boards on the way up and down the stairs, and, incredibly, buzzes in your sweetheart’s mouth as he or she snores noisily at 3 AM on Monday morning. The difference between music and not-music then pivots on the attention and consideration different sounds receive. Record them to tape, amplify and manipulate them, or set them into new patterns and a surprising, sometimes beautiful music can emerge. That’s the music of The Breadwinner, the first album in Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet’s recently completed trilogy on Erstwhile.

Recorded in 2006 and ’07 at Graham Lambkin’s home in Poughkeepsie, New York, The Breadwinner claims to be a collection of “musical settings for common environments and domestic situations.” As it turns out, the music itself was derived almost entirely from noise captured around the house. Everything from water glasses to July 4th fireworks and squeaky hinges made the cut, so the music reflects the spaces and occasions for which it is apparently intended (tongue-in-cheek or not).

But the album isn’t just the product of two guys wondering about the kitchen, living room, and bathroom with various microphones and some magnetic tape. Besides the keyboard and piano used on “Listen, the Snow is Falling” and “Lucy Song,” the duo utilize their recordings as sound sources, deriving unearthly tones and igneous rhythms from the speeding up and slowing down of the source material. If the recording process doesn’t make itself obvious in one way or another, the quality of the various sounds still point to it. On “E5150/Body Transport,” a droning, out-of-body experience slowly resolves into a steady snore, suggesting that whole piece is actually an appropriated nightly annoyance. “Two States” compares and contrasts events that must have taken place at separate times. The mix is too solid, the balance too spot on for it to have happened without some tinkering.

Graham and Jason transform every room and make every object in those rooms new, whether by manipulation or by the arrangement of contrasting noises and complimentary sounds. Solid objects like the bedroom radiator or the fire place lose their rigid form and become malleable. That in turn gives the duo the freedom to re-contextualize everything, from mumbled voices to everyday appliances.

Mundane sources such as these typically keep emotional or communicative content well in the background. What we’re supposed to do is listen to the sounds as sounds, not look for a message from the composers. After all, how could a refrigerator possibly speak to a sane person?

Perhaps unexpectedly, Lambkin and Lescalleet have left something personal in the mix, so maybe the fridge does just that: speak. First, there’s the titles, which Graham and Jason probably understand better than the audience. But there’s a Black Sabbath reference in there, and maybe one fromThe Hobbit too, and the aforementioned “Lucy Song” sticks to the ears with its bittersweet melody. The music moves through several moods, some ominous, others calming, and the reason for either isn’t always clear. But the point is that the moods are there. So where are they coming from? “Listen, the Snow is Falling” can’t help but communicate with its stunning sense of stillness and beauty, some of which is generated by the simple presence of a flickering fire. Even if the song were called “Track One,” it would convey memories, feelings, and ideas.

And memory seems to be part of what Graham and Jason are up to with these songs. They make the lowly spoon and water glass speak to sensations usually provoked by rock ‘n’ roll songs, familiar melodies, conventional rhythms, and good books. The whole microcosm of Lambkin’s house is laid bare for those curious enough to check it out. But, what about the experience of finding those noises, or the people who were around when they were made? There are obviously human noises on the record, but the figures themselves are conspicuously missing, or at least hidden. Which brings up a good question: is the breadwinner of the title the two musicians who made the record, or is it the house itself? Could it be the world at large, or is it maybe an unnameable something else?  That blank spot there between the lines, where the music echoes out from invisibly?

The Breadwinner is available on Erstwhile Records.
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com


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The Monthly List: November’s Top 11

Here we go with the November list. Most magazines and digital publications are already publishing their favorite records of the year, or are at least setting the stage for their “best-of” list.

My year end review won’t show up until after the new year, as there are numerous releases from 2013 that I’d still like to hear, plus I’m not terribly inclined to rank things , so I’ve been doing very little calculation about what I’ve liked better. You can always look over my lists from the past months to get a sense of where my ears have been lately.

As for the records below, links to my favorite sites for reviews and information are found at the bottom of the page. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.comJust Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat places are good places to go looking for the more obscure stuff.

Formats posted are the ones I own; others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.

  • Graham Labmkin/Jason Lescalleet, Photographs on ERSTWHILE (2CD)
  • Graham Labmkin/Jason Lescalleet, Air Supply on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Graham Labmkin/Jason Lescalleet, The Breadwinner on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Jason Lescalleet, This Is What I Do Vol. 1 on GLISTENING EXAMPLES (CD)
  • Kevin Drumm, Earrach on SELF-RELEASED (2CD)
  • Songs: Ohia, The Magnolia Electric Co. (10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) on SECRETLY CANADIAN (2CD)
  • Songs: Ohia, Didn’t It Rain on SECRETLY CANADIAN (CD)
  • Magnolia Electric Co., Trials & Errors on SECRETLY CANADIAN (2LP)
  • Loren Connors, Hell’s Kitchen Park on ENABLING WORKS (LP)
  • Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home on COLUMBIA (CD)
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland on REPRISE (CD+DVD)

 

 


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Broadcast 06: “Opening Night”

feldman_laughBelow are two links to the WZBC Archives where you can listen to my December 8th radio show, broadcast on WZBC 90.3 FM in Boston. Those links will remain active until December 22nd, at which point the show will disappear and be replaced by a new one.

There’s a whole trio of new releases represented in this broadcast (plus a fragment of a new release at the end): one from Phill Niblock, one from Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet, and one from Olivia Block, whose latest album, Karren, is receiving all kinds of positive responses. “Opening Night” definitely blew me away; just a gorgeous recording and a great concept behind it. Be sure to give that a shot if you have time for nothing else.

Anyone interested in the opening Michael Pisaro piece should check this link out. In it, Michael explains a bit about what’s happening compositionally in Hearing Metal 2—the section I played is actually quite different from the bulk of the recording—you can always check out my review of that album here, which includes samples. There’s lots of good information on the Wandelweiser website as well. Pisaro is a great writer and always manages to speak very clearly about his work, despite the inherent difficulty in the subject matter. My interview with him links to several articles he’s written, plus I think he clarifies a lot of difficult concepts over the course of the discussion. You can read that here.

During the course of the show, I also mentioned an interview with James Tenney that I thought was particularly helpful for understanding his music and the influence he’s had on people like Michael Pisaro and Michael Byron. You can read that interview at New Music Box.

My next show will continue with more new music, including releases on PAN and 23Five.

Any questions, comments, or requests, please send me an email.

Thanks for listening.

Laughter: November 24th, 2013 – Hour 1 and Hour 2

  1. Michael Pisaro and Greg Stuart, “Hearing Metal 2 (Le table du silence) – I” from Hearing Metal 2 (Le table du silence) (2011) on GRAVITY WAVE
  2. Phill Niblock, “Two Lips (Dither Guitar Quartet)” from Touch Five (2013) on TOUCH
  3. Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “Loss” from Photographs (2013) on ERSTWHILE
  4. Olivia Block, “Opening Night” from Karren (2013) on SEDIMENTAL
  5. Luc Ferrari, “Chicago, USA. October 2001. Rehearsal for a concert Harley Davidson. Texas.” from Les Anecdotiques (2004) on SUB ROSA
  6. Robin Rimbaud, “Experience” from The Garden is Full of Metal: Homage to Derek Jarman (1997) on SUB ROSA
  7. James Tenney, “Swell Piece (1967)” from Postal Pieces (2004) on NEW WORLD RECORDS — performed by The Barton Workshop
  8. Morton Feldman, “For Franz Kline” from Only – Works for Voices and Instruments (1996) on NEW ALBION — composed in 1962 – vocals by Joan La Barbara
  9. John Cage, “String Quartet in Four Parts (Quietly Flowing Along/Slowly Rocking)” from The Complete String Quartets Vol. 2 (1992) on MODE — composed 1949-50, performed by The Arditti Quartet – these are just the first two movements
  10. Burkhard Stangl, “Unfinished – Sailing (fragment)” from Unfinished. For William Turner, Painter. (2013) on TOUCH — performed by Fennesz


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Broadcast 05: “Listen, the Snow is Falling”

lescalleet_lambkin_glassBelow are two links to the WZBC Archives where you can listen to my November 24th radio show, broadcast on WZBC 90.3 FM in Boston. Those links will remain active until December 8th (I’m posting this a touch late due to the holiday), at which point the show will disappear and be replaced by a new one.

One caller compared this show to a taking warm bath. That’s a first for me. The sounds are gentler than the last couple weeks (there’s nary a jazz recording in sight), and a couple of them border on the ambient. The centerpiece is a beautiful collaboration between Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet, released on Erstwhile in 2008. If you listen to just one thing from this show, make it that. And then go get their new double disc, Photographs.

Anyone put off by harsher sounds will likely appreciate the cooler colors at play throughout the entire second hour. That William Winant recording is another beautiful and hypnotizing piece of music worth seeking out. The LP is sold out at the source, but certain online retailers may still have copies. Poke around your favorite sites and maybe something will turn up. It’s also available digitally on iTunes.

For those who want a little more action and some rougher edges in their lives, the first 25 minutes or so contain some very thrilling noise from Autechre and Bernard Parmegiani, who, if you somehow missed it, passed away on November 21st. Much of his music has been reissued in the last couple of years and I encourage anyone with even an inkling of interest to go and find it. Recollection GRM provides two great starting points.

My show on the 8th will probably follow a similar format, with the second hour sticking to somewhat more accessible music. If you like what you hear here, I hope you’ll tune in then.

Any questions or requests, send me an email.

Thanks for listening.

Laughter: November 24th, 2013 – Hour 1 and Hour 2

  1. Bernard Parmegiani, “Lumiere Noire: Moins l’infini/Instant O/Premieres forces – Premieres formes” from La création du monde (1993) on INA GRM
  2. Autechre, ‎”irlite (get 0)” from Exai (2013) on WARP RECORDS
  3. Bruce Gilbert and BAW, “Beasts of the Earth” from Diluvial (2013) on TOUCH
  4. Jacob Kirkegaard, “Church” from 4 Rooms (2006) on TOUCH
  5. Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, “Listen, the Snow is Falling” from The Breadwinner (2008) on ERSTWHILE
  6. William Winant, “Trackings I” from Five American Percussion Pieces (2013) on POON VILLAGE – written by Michael Byron, 1976
  7. Luciano Cilio, “Primo Quadro “Della Conoscenza da Dialoghi dal presente” from Dell’Universo Assente (2013) on DIE SCHACHTEL
  8. Franca Sacchi, “Arpa Eolia” from EN (2011) on DIE SCHACHTEL – piece written and performed 1970
  9. Labradford, “Twenty” from fixed::context (2000) on KRANKY


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Broadcast 02: September 29th, 2013

amethyst_deceivers_reverseBelow are two links to the WZBC Archives where you can listen to my September 29th radio show, broadcast on WZBC 90.3 FM in Boston. Those links will remain active until October the 13th, at which point the show will disappear and be replaced by a new one. I will not be uploading permanent MP3 links.

I thought this show sounded much better. Playing complete pieces, even when they’re 26 minutes long, makes for much better radio. And I love listening to Coil’s seasonal EPs at the start of each season, especially when I can turn it up nice and loud in the studio. Unfortunately, all of the EPs and the Moon’s Milk collection are harder to find than I thought, unless you feel like spending 90 bucks. Hopefully their scarcity is rectified soon.

I lied at the end of the program and said that I would be back in two weeks, but that’s actually not the case. I won’t be back on the air until the end of October, on the 27th. I will probably focus more on free jazz and free improv for that show. I’ve been itching to play Roscoe Mitchell and John Coltrane on the air for a long time.

Links to labels are provided in the playlist.  Any questions or requests, send me an email (see the about page). Some of this music is still in print and available from the stores, shops, and distributors listed at the bottom of this page. Be sure to check the label pages as well. Intransitive and Hanson both offer digital versions of their records directly from their sites.

Thanks for listening.

Laughter: September 29th, 2013 – Hour 1 and Hour 2

  1. Coil, “The Auto-Asphyxiating Hierophant” from Autumn Equinox: Amethyst Deceivers (1998) on ESKATON
  2. Aaron Dilloway, “Look Over Your Shoulder” from Modern Jester (2013) on HANSON RECORDS
  3. Moniek Darge, “Turkish Square” from Sounds of Sacred Places (2011) on KYE
  4. Jason Lescalleet, “Euphoric Sting/Beauty is a Bowtie (HTDW)” from Songs About Nothing (2012) on ERSTWHILE
  5. Elklink, “Tension Tec” from The Rise of Elklink (2011) on KYE
  6. Lionel Marchetti, “La Quête Des Pouvoirs/Résidu Idolâtre/Pointe Extrême Et Guérison Inverse” from Knud un Nom de Serpent (Le Cercle des Entrailles) (2008) on INTRANSITIVE
  7. David Tudor, “Variations II” from Music for Piano (2007) on EDITION RZ — score by John Cage, more info here: http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/guides_bibliographies/david_tudor/av/variations.html
  8. Iannis Xenakis, “Orient-Occident” from GRM Works 1957-1962 (2013) on RECOLLECTION GRM — learn more here: http://asymmetrymusicmagazine.com/editorials/intuition-and-order-in-xenakiss-orient-occident/
  9. Bernard Parmegiani, “L’oeil ecoute” from L’oeuvre Musicale (2008) on INA/GRM — composed in 1970, liner notes from the RE:GRM reissue can be found here: http://editionsmego.com/release/REGRM-003
shot from the ZBC studios


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The Monthly List: September’s Top 15

The Monthly List is just a list of my favorite records from the previous month, with links to audio, video, and reviews where possible. Titles may or may not be new releases and some records may or may not be repeated from month to month. This month there are 15 records on the list, next month there may be only eight or nine; the number isn’t fixed. If you’re interested in buying the music, you should check out the “Get Music” links at the bottom of the page; some of those sites also provide sound samples. Formats listed are the ones I own. Releases may be available in other formats.

So here are September’s 15, in no particular order:

Depeche Mode in no good garb


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It’s no good

The new Jason Lescalleet 2CD on Erstwhile Records is one of my favorite albums this year.  If you want to know more about it or all the Big Black references, you can check out reviews here, here, and here.

Disc two ends with a funny, slowed-down sample from Depeche Mode’s “It’s No Good,” which is now stuck in my head. Thanks, Jason. I’ll be humming this all day.