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2000s: A Musical Retrospective in Real Time: Pre

April 13, 2010


A combination of busy schedule and mild illness kept me from updating the blog over the weekend but fear not because I bear good music. Pre (not the most Google-friendly band name) is a noisy spastic punk band fronted by Comanechi drummer and vocalist Akiko Matsuura. If you’re at all familiar with Comanechi don’t think you’ll automatically dig Pre though. Pre doesn’t play lo-fi indie rock music. It’s more like they bulldoze through you with scratchy blasts of guitars and screams interspersed with twitchy noise in the guise of a rhythm section. Brutally horrible in the best way possible, Pre’s music borders on the animalistic while staying clear of “jams” and focusing on short, structured mayhem.
Their debut album, Epic Fits, delivers on the ear-splitting goodness great for times when you want to let loose some aggression (though hopefully not on people, maybe a pillow (Note: As Seen On Radio does not condone violence against pillows)).

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Vinyl Gets!: The Boswell Sisters

April 4, 2010

Digging through the local vintage store’s vinyl bins is always fun. On my last drop-in I spent a couple hours thumbing through the dusty discs looking for something to catch my eye. Buried in the back of one of the jazz bins was the Boswell Sisters’ rarities compilation Okay, America!. The only other customer in the store was chatting up the cashier when I very audibly said “Oh shit”. I caught the two of them out of the corner of my eye trying to peek around the shelf separating me from them. Playing it off I flipped the record over to check out the tracklist.
Alternate takes? Never-before-collected songs? The Dorsey Brothers? I knew I wanted the record.

Okay, America's B-side label showing off the Jass Records logo


The release is a nicely put together package. It’s been hard trying to track down any info on Okay, America! through the internet other than it got a CD release in the ’90s. The reverse side of the sleeve actually covers quite a bit of information for each track, from musicians to recording dates. Even nicer though is a printed “talk” by Connee Boswell as told to Rich Conaty. She talks about how the sisters once received a letter deriding the group as “savage chanters.” Connee goes on to say that the letter was proof positive that the sisters were on to something.

Okay, America's A-side label


The actual disc is not too impressive, aesthetically that is. It actually kind of bothers me that the tracklist for both sides is only on the A-side label and in tiny print. Not that you’ll be trying to read the record while it’s spinning but I guess I’m just picky. The actual music is a great listen which begs the question: why did it take so long for these songs to be collected and released (about 50 years)? If you’re a Boswell fan and can find a copy I would recommend getting Okay, America! though it seems that it might be easier to get a hold of the CD release instead.

Vroom-Sound Goes Stubbie

March 31, 2010


Vroom-Sound Records, run by Hirofumi Shimada, has changed it’s name after 10 years of post-Shibuya-kei awesomeness. Shimada announced the name change on his blog (here) as well as plugging the first release under the new “Stubbie Records” moniker, Noonday Underground’s the k-o chorale. Vroom-Sound might be best known for being home to the manic-pop stylings of Plus-Tech Squeeze Box but it also released works by Eel, The Go! Team and even distributed Optiganally Yours’ Exclusively Talentmaker in Japan. It’ll be interesting to hear if this name change will be a part of a sonic change for the label-formerly-known-as-Vroom-Sound or just a suspiciously timed announcement. Time will tell.

You can visit the (slightly) redone website at www.stubbierecords.com or if you’re feeling nostalgic www.vroom-sound.com links right to Stubbie Records.

2000s: A Musical Retrospective in Real Time: Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings

March 28, 2010

It’s been a while since I wrote up a group for the “Musical Retrospective” series (this time with extra emphasis on the “retro” part). Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings are a throwback to the ’60s era Motown not unlike previous “Musical Retrospective” singer/songwriter Mayer Hawthorne. However, where Hawthorne croons and smooth-talks, Sharon Jones belts out lyrics over the funky rhythms provided by The Dap-Kings.
Their album Dap Dippin’ With… is set up to feel like a recorded live show. Right in the first track (appropriately titled “Introduction”) Sharon Jones, “who’s so bad she’s badder than bad”, is called out “on-stage” to kick off the next track “Got a Thing on My Mind”. On “The Dap Dip” the bandleader calls out to the band and tells them about “the new epidemic going around”. What follows is a song dedicated to the dance “the Dap Dip” (which if you’re wondering “ain’t no thing but a drop of the hip”). If you’re a fan of old funk records Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings will be right up your alley.

Bubblegum Octopus: 8-Legged Interview

March 21, 2010

So where do I start with an artist like Bubblegum Octopus? I could talk about how his frantic schizophrenic style of music fuses styles (or more like welds them together against their will). Or maybe a tangent on how a generation of Americans who have grown up influenced by the steady importation of Japanese pop culture have started to create their own art celebrating the influence. Hmm, but that would put too much emphasis on that part of Bubblegum Octopus when there is really much more going on underneath his curly mop of hair. What if I begin the post with open ended questions meant to delay the real start of the article? No, that would be cheap and dumb. Oh well.

I’ve been meaning to post this up for a while now but a combination of laziness and distractions (Damn you, Satoshi Tajiri and your addictive games) got in the way. Eight badges later I can finally let you guys in on another part of the expansion of As Seen On Radio. I got the opportunity to talk with Matt Morden about his Bubblegum Octopus project and with camera-in-hand (though sometimes it was on a tripod) I can now share the resulting interview:

My first exposure to Bubblegum Octopus’ music was at a free show where I found myself very interested in what he was doing. It’s hard to pin down exactly what to call it which may or may not be a good thing. His album, The Album Formerly Known as 8-Legged Dance Moves(which can be bought from Bubblegum Octopus’ online store), has a strangely cohesive sound to it that only makes itself apparent when you compare it to collections of his other songs such as his split with Yatagarasu, Take Control (which is unfortunately not available online anymore). As strange as it might read, the cohesiveness comes from the type of juxtaposition used throughout the album. Falsetto vocals give way to growls and grunts over start-stop rhythms in entertainingly absurd ways. The same happens on Take Control only it seems tempered (but not watered down) by more attention to song structure and lyrical focus. Both are great listens if you can get a hold of them (legally that is). Or if you already own them, Matt has said he’s working on his next full-length album which after hearing an excerpt from, I am looking forward to.
If you want to listen to more of Bubblegum Octopus visit his MySpace page.

Hip-Hop Producer Nujabes Passes Away

March 18, 2010


Producer/composer Jun Seba, known to his fans as Nujabes, passed away on February 26th after a car accident with the rumors of his passing being confirmed only within the past day. The reason behind the delay in the announcement is still not known but some believe it to be due to his private lifestyle. Seba’s friend and occasional collaborator, Shing02, set up a site to help spread the news as well as for fans to leave messages. Seba is perhaps most known for his work with his record label, Hydeout Productions, as well as contributing to the soundtrack for the Samurai Champloo anime. To read Shing02’s message or leave a comment visit: http://www.e22.com/nujabes/

Vinyl Gets!: The Protomen

March 12, 2010

After last week’s “Vinyl Gets!” entry, I realized I desperately needed a better camera so for now I’m borrowing one til I can get my own (Any suggestions on make & model, internet?). Moving right along, I actually got The Protomen’s “Father of Death” 7″ about the same time as Magic Kids’ “Hey Boy” and planned to do the first “Vinyl Gets!” covering both releases but I didn’t figure just how much I had to say about “Hey Boy”. It might actually work out for the better because at least I have better pictures now but on to the release.
First things first: free sticker! Stickers aren’t really my thing but I’ve amassed a good stack of them over the years. It’s a nice touch and while it’s not that big of a deal, you feel like you’re getting more for your money (and in recession-era USA that’s a good thing). The sticker is the standard band logo on black background but there’s nothing wrong there. It doesn’t earn The Protomen points but doesn’t take away any either.
Here’s where The Protomen do deserve some praise though. WHITE VINYL! I’m a sucker for colored vinyls and picture discs. It adds a certain character and personality to a record.
As far as cover art, I suppose the “Father of Death” is okay. A hanging hand dripping blood over the band name seems a tad cheesy but there is a certain camp to The Protomen aesthetic anyway. The back cover is a portion of the lyrics “signed” by “Tom”. If you don’t get the allusion just know it’s a reference to the Megaman video games which Protomen songs are based on.

The last piece of the package is a lyrics and credits sheet. It’s the little things like this that I really enjoy. It just shows that there was thought and effort put into the making and printing of the record. In the age of mp3s I think artists should make physical releases really special and give the public a reason to buy the record/CD/minidisk/cassette. For a ~$10 7″, The Protomen did a good job which makes me want to look forward to a vinyl LP release from them.