Said the Gramophone - image by Matthew Feyld
by Sean
James Irwin - 'Everything Passed Me By' image by Adam Waito


James Irwin - "Everything Passed Me By". Flying to Los Angeles tomorrow and what better send-off than this jet-plume of a song by Montreal's James Irwin. Synths prowl softly round the rhythm section's groove; nimble guitars and baby blues; a saxophone like a shot & vanishing rocket.

Seems we're never going to get a record by The Moment, Montreal's best new band of 2013. They were James Irwin and Nick Scribner, Adam Waito and Julia Lewandowski and Jeffrey Malecki. "Everything Passed Me By" was one of theirs - a treasure I was waiting for. In concert, this tune was a blanket and a rainforest. It was a scene, a jam, a whole complete friendship. It was five songs convening in a summer field.

Now James has finished "Everything Passed Me By" on his own. I think it's songier than it was: melody & harmony, a musical arrangement gathered in a room. But still those gorgeous chords, that beautiful diffuseness. A fizz of feelings, vivid and fading and faint, in a story of Californian evenings, summer heat, lying down on a lawn. There's a long sunset. There's distance. There's surf. Ariel Pink is here, with John Maus. Belle & Sebastian are squinting at a concrete ocean-wall. If there are leaves, the leaves' green has lost its saturation. The day is Polaroid, with flat feet and swollen heart. I thought I was Harry Nilsson, here / I thought I'd be walking on the beach and the vision would wash up in a bottle at my feet / Everything passed me by. It's a song that dances with inevitability, around inevitability, splits inevitability into trilling call and answer, division, no mistakes.

Some paradises are very specific, too specific to ever find.

[more from James / there's a remix coming]


Don Jazzy, Tiwa Savage, Dr SID, D'Prince and The Mavins - "Dorobucci". In Africa at least, they have a worthy "song of the summer". "Dorobucci", from Nigeria's Mavin Records, is one of the year's biggest hits. It's a lissom, looping laze. It's a chant of good times, wealth and friendship, sunshine and water and flowing breeze. You can turn it up loud and dance, with all your gang; you can turn it down a little and breathe in/breathe out, among dappled lights. Nighttime and daytime, Dorobucci. Daytime and nighttime, Dorobucci. Simple as a good mood, found.

[official video coming soon / lots of great unofficial ones]

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If you're on the west coast, I do hope you'll join me for readings & music in Los Angeles on Wednesday 23/7, SF on Monday 28/7, and Portland on Tuesday, 29/7.

(illustration by Adam Waito)

by Dan

Zoo - "Hard Times, Good Times"

Hide your money in a paper bag. Eat the first food you see. Get on a bus. Switch to a cab. Stop to make a phone call. Run bare-legged across the highway. See a plane and feel yourself on it. Break the law and watch the world keep turning.

Zoo - "Samedi Soir a Charnouet"

Wheels crunch into a gravel driveway. There are heels and there are lights off the lake. If Galit is here it will be fun, she will be squeezed into wool, she will paint herself with wool and her hair will be a sculpture. If Geneviève is here there will be sweets. If Ben is here we will hear all about the islands, and how much the army needs to blow them up. If Herve is here he's only going to talk about business. I think we should meet again about the balances, Emil is giving me shit about the balances and I don't want to get it wrong, I think we should meet again. I can feel my back against the ribbed faux-wood as I squeeze to the restroom. I can feel the smoke, I can see the drinks lifted over heads to get through the crowd. I can feel the cool summer air as I step away from the house and towards the lake. I want to feel my voice relax as I can speak in a normal voice. I want to think about swimming. But mostly I want to look at the fire and forget. I want to sip something and I want to catch someone's eye, and I want to think ah, the sun. The terrible, terrible sun, stay right where you are.

[very difficult to find buy links, if anyone can help]

by Sean
by Brendan Reed


Tonal Blows - "Your Scratchy Face".
Tonal Blows - "By the Sea".
Tonal Blows - "Train Memory".
Tonal Blows - "A Choice Between".

Ringworm Psoriasis, Secret Garden Gallop Way, and From A Pride To Whom Lay with Mangy Mutts are three volumes of avant-garde ringtones recorded by Blobby Rice aka Blane Rose' aka Break Ribbons aka Bones & Rubber aka Body Roial aka my beloved Brendan Reed. Brendan is an artist and musician and programmer and filmmaker, a veteran of Letlowns and Clues and long-ago Arcade Fire. He's himself and none-other, a forge of sparking arcing art. And so when he decided to record and release dozens of ringtones your eyebrows would be right to rise, like floodwaters.

These are ringtones that chime and flail and explode. Some of them dwindle, others burst. Some are catchy hooks, other are the lint that catches on hooks. They are short and they are long. They are diverse. They break open our idea of what a ringtone is and I bet if you put one on your phone, and your phone then rings, you will breathe and smile and actually feel right in this technological world; like finally you are using technology to make your life truer, rather than more of a lie.

Four of my favourite TONAL BLOWS ringtones are available here.

  • "Your Scratchy Face" is that phone-call where you are stressed out but also happy about the stress, settled by it; like your life has been given a gift of meaning by all the tiny fractured bits and pieces of roiling business;
  • "By The Sea" is that phone-call on Saturday afternoon when things are finally going to get going!!! and you hear the phone in the other room and you're excited, you're excited!, but still it takes a while to get around yr furniture and through the doorway and to that damn phone and along the way you have the chance to imagine the whole story for the rest of your day, and how long it's going to be, and how thorough;
  • "Train Memory" is that phone-call where your friend is going to insist on pretending to be a train; and
  • "A Choice Between" is the ringing, jumbly sound of mingled friendships; you can't even remember how or when you met this treasured pal.
But my other favourites include: from Volume 1, "Sharing the Stairs and Stuff", "Tight Corners and Hole", "Wussy Soundings"; and from Volume 3: "Piano Recital", "The Carnage" and "Kyle Too".

You can download all three of these volumes of ringtones for free or for cheap or for $1,000 a pop: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3.

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Brendan made a riddle of a website for me, Our Shadows Slanting By The Lamps, to help promote my novel. Owen Pallett contributed music. The other sites were I Gazed At A Long Shelf of Batteries, by Jez Burrows (with music by my pal M.G.), and Whispering Machine, by Socialtech, with original music by Bear In Heaven.

by Sean
Underwater by Andreas Franke


The Hydrothermal Vents - "Neptune's Grave".
The Hydrothermal Vents - "Shark!".

A scuba diver has impermeable earbuds in his ears. He dives down through columns of bubbles, quills of current, weaving and sinuous in a search for manta-rays. And he's listening to music, sure he is. The Hydrothermal Vents have given us an album that's like Jacques Cousteau in a band with the Pixies, Devo jamming with Flotsam & Jetsam. Electric pop with spines and fins - rock'n'roll that's a little weird, its queerness hissing in like oxygen. While "Neptune's Grave" is tangled acceleration, the slap and coo of appetite, "Shark!" is fizzier stuff - under the pop and sighs there's something like a motorik, and it almost reminds me of Stereolab.

Yes, there's a silliness to the Vents' undersea project. But it's a serious silliness, po-faced whimsy; the Talking Heads taught us something can be funny without being a joke. Secrets of the Deep! doesn't rely on any punchlines. It uses its conceit as an engine, a chugging dinghy, as it trawls for pop. If "Neptune's Grave" doesn't hook you, "Shark!" will. Both shed silver fishscale whenever I take them up.

[The Hydrothermal Vents at Bandcamp / they launch the album at Casa del Popolo on Friday Saturday]

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Sincere apologies for my recent absence on the blog. I was book-touring around the US and didn't have time to catch my breath (and type). Honestly I felt the guilt & regret swinging round my neck like a damn medallion. You are all friends and I hate when I neglect our correspondence.

That said, the tour resumes next week. If you live in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Portland, I would love to meet you in person. Please come to a reading, where I'll talk about Us Conductors, and read from it, and we can shake actual hands. (If you prefer it à la Québecoise, we can kiss on each cheek.)

  • Los Angeles, CA - July 23 - Largo at the Coronet • Mollie has organized this incredible, almost dumbfounding show: "Moving Through Space Toward You" is a celebration of the theremin, and my novel, featuring Califone, thereminist Eban Schletter, electro-thereminist Probyn Gregory (who tours with the Beach Boys, playing that part on "Good Vibrations"), and This American Life mainstay Starlee Kine. Plus surprise guests? We're going to turn the theatre into paradise. Please come: buy tickets here.
  • San Francisco, CA - July 28 - Booksmith • A reading at this amazing bookshop with help from local thereminist Meredith Yayanos. Free!
  • Portland, OR - July 29 - Glyph Café & Arts Space • A "Happy Hour with the Theremin" from 5:30 to 7:30, with Us Conductors and local theremin-player Steve Hassett. Free!

I'll also be appearing at LA's Literary Death Match on July 22, competing against DJ Javerbaum, Sara Benincasa and Attica Locke.

(photo by Andreas Franke)

by Dan

Variations - "Generations"

I remember when I first heard Varations. I was ice cream and it was the coast of Portugal. My brother Vincente had made a crystal radio out of a cereal box and a nata. And from the center of Paris had floated these guitars, this riff, those popcorn drums. I remember when I first heard that crystal radio I thought it was like hearing for the first time after being deaf my whole life. I wanted to live on this music, I wanted to be what this music promised was possible. It felt like the world actually existed and had invited me to join. But I was ice cream, for chrissakes, what could I do? I mean ACTUAL ice cream, a pile of cream in a cone and I had some vanilla and some chocolate in my veins. I would melt, SURELY before the summer was out. How was I supposed to live like Variations described? Their voices singing me through that cereal box like magic. I'll never be like them, I thought, I'm just ice cream. Well, look at me now, I tell you. Look at me now.

[out of print]

by Dan

The Black Angels - "Tired Eyes"

His face looked like a living insult, and she was dressed like a door off its hinges. The whole day was slightly sweaty, kind of chafing, whatever day that was. 200, or thereabouts. He got a call on his flip phone. He turned into the shoulder-height weeds and lowered his voice, a family loped past and into the store with frozen lunch and fireworks emanating from their heads in big cushy thought bubbles. He finished his phone call and hung up, his body blushing, if a carrot with carrot eyes can even blush. "That's rude," she said, her hair with no strand the same shade. "How is that rude?" "It's like you're keeping something from me." "It's a personal phone call, why do you want to hear my personal phone call?"

The family came out, and they may have changed clothes while in there, everything seemed to flap against them as they walked.

"I don't want to hear it. I just don't want you to hide it." A church sat hot and empty not far off.

[Buy]

by Dan

Bartholomäus Traubeck - "Fraxinus (Ash)"

Gargantuan he lay crook-necked in the field under the stars. Worried about his heart, he was unable to sleep -- again. It had been restless nights for weeks now this was the new normal. Unable to fit in a regular house he would sleep in the rain. Walking simply north away from everyone who now hated him away from everyone entirely. He had been told as a boy that he had a weak heart and not to over-exert not to over-indulge. His whole damn life had been an exercise in moderation and this was the result: growing 8x his size in as many weeks. Despite caloric restriction hell starving himself he just kept growing. His clothes were first to go then the furniture. He couldn't stay in the house after a week it was like trying to climb into a shoebox and close the lid just to say hello to your wife. Bea. Bea was heaven on earth. But when the growing started she quickly became worried about the baby as if the baby were the one growing but it wasn't it was him. Bea seemed to blame him which was understandable it was baffling and no one knew who or what to blame. But that was not the issue for him anymore it was what to do. He walked so much every day sometimes all night. He had stolen a circus tent a week ago in the middle of the night to use as a blanket. As he was leaving he stopped to look at the rides dewy and solitary and he batted one the cars of the ferris wheel with the tip of his finger like it were a miniature and he thought I could snap this off. And he thought that even when he was little well normal there was something somewhere that was thinking that about him. I could snap this off. His heart. Lying crook-necked in the field under the stars he squinted to listen for it but instead heard the wind and the flap of the tent on his foot and the tiny tiny stream.

[Buy]

About the album: A tree's year rings are analysed for their strength, thickness and rate of growth. This data serves as basis for a generative process that outputs piano music. It is mapped to a scale which is again defined by the overall appearance of the wood (ranging from dark to light and from strong texture to light texture). The foundation for the music is certainly found in the defined ruleset of programming and hardware setup, but the data acquired from every tree interprets this ruleset very differently.

This record features seven recordings from different Austrian trees. They were generated on the Years installation in Vienna, January 2012.