Category Archives: Music

Friday Random Ten, June 27

I haven’t done a FRT in a while.

  1. Mogwai, “Kids Will be Skeletons”: a typical Mogwai
    track; brilliant post-rock.
  2. The Redneck Manifesto, “Bring Your Own Blood: more
    post-rock in the same general vein as Mogwai. This one is a bit
    up-tempo, with a very cool rythym.
  3. Gogol Bordello, “Dub the Frequencies of Love: an Eastern
    European gypsy punk band doing reggae. Insane, but very cool.
  4. Tony Levin, “Beyond My Reach: A few years ago, the god
    of the Chapman stick finally started recording some of his
    own music. He’s got a surprisingly good voice. The album is
    terrific, ranging from some solid prog tracks, to some fun pop tunes
    to very well done ballads, like this one. Even in a mellow ballad
    like this, he manages to work in some very impressive stick work.
  5. Hawkwind, “Seven by Seven”: very old progressive/space
    rock. I just recently discovered Hawkwind, and was very surprised. I
    thought that I knew about all of the first wave of prog-rockers. And
    yet, these guys are famous and influential, but I somehow totally
    missed out on them. They’re utterly brilliant. They’ve got a lot of
    the typcial hallmarks of the early proggers in their sound – there’s
    some similarity to Van Der Graff Generator, early Genesis, Syd
    Barret era Pink Floyd; but they’re got their own unique distinctive
    sound within that style. Really great stuff. This is a very typical
    Hawkwind track; lots of very spacy sounding stuff, against a
    complex structure. Highly recommended.
  6. IQ, “Red Dust Shadow”: from early prog-rock to neo-prog.
    IQ is a neo-progressive band that got started around the same time
    as Marillion. They’re led by a guy named Peter Nichols, who’s got a
    voice that sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel. They’re a really
    fantastic band.
  7. Marillion, “Tumble Down the Years: more neo-progressive.
    I’m a huge Marillion fan. I started listening to them back in 1985
    or so, and I’ve been a continual fan ever since. This is a sweet
    little romantic song from them. Typically for Marillion, even when
    they do a poppy little sappy song, it’s got some beautiful structure
    interesting harmonies, and great transitions.
  8. Naftule’s Dream, “Free Klez”: Very radical experimental
    Klezmer. Ornette Coleman meets Naftule Brandwien on acid.
  9. Tony Trischka, “Celtic Melody: unaccompanied banjo
    played by my former banjo teacher. (He’s also Bela Fleck’s banjo
    teacher.) Amazing technique. No one can play the banjo like Tony –
    when Tony’s on, not even Bela can match him. This is a medley
    of a couple of very traditional Irish tunes, played with absolute
  10. IQ, “You Never Will: another IQ track, from the same
    album as “Red Dust Shadow”.

Friday Random 10

  1. Boiled in Lead, “Blackened Page”: An interestingly mysterious song, written by one of my favorite fiction writers, the brilliant Steven Brust.
  2. J.S. Bach, “Cantata #77”: Bach’s Cantata’s are some of the finest pieces of music ever written. Amazing.
  3. Mandelbrot Set, “And the Rockets Red Glare”: very good post-rock.
  4. Yes, “Going for the One”: One of my all-time favorite Yes songs. Great stuff.
  5. Pink Floyd, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”: a live recording of some brilliant Syd Barrett material from Pink Floyd’s psychedelic era.
  6. The Flower Kings, “Black and White”: As I’ve said in past FRTs, the Flower Kings are pretty much the best of the neo-progressive bands. This is a relatively short track for the King, being only about 8 minutes long. Typical FK gold.
  7. Elegant Simplicity, “Illuminated Heartbeat”: Incredibly dull, repetitive, awful instrumental track. Elegant Simplicity did an amazing
    album called “Architect of Light”, which I loved. So I rushed out to get more of their stuff – and met with profound disappointment. This is an awful album – track after track of totally dull repetitive dreck.
  8. Solstice Coil, “Brilliance”: another small independent neo-progressive band that I found through Bitmunk. I’ve had this album for less than 24 hours, so I haven’t formed a firm opinion about it yet. It’s interesting stuff, with some moments of brilliance.
  9. King Crimson, “Starless”: old King Crimson, from the “Red” album. This is amazing music.
  10. Sigur Rós, “Hafsól”: A track off the latest album by the Icelandic post-rock ensemble. Pretty typical of Sigur Rós sound; perhaps a bit on the harker side than average, but very distinctively their sound. A great track from a great album.
  11. </o

Friday Random Ten

  1. Metaphor, “Call Me Old and Uninspired or Maybe Even Lazy and Tired but Thirteen Bodies in my Backyard Say You’re Wrong”: Very cool (if silly) track from one of the best neo-progressive bands I found via Bitmunk. I love Bitmunk.
  2. The Beatles, “Mean Mr. Mustard”
  3. The Flower Kings, “The Devil’s Danceschool”: Brilliant instrumental piece by
    the Flower Kings, built around an improv by a Trumpet fed through a synth bender.
  4. Do Make Say Think, “You, You’re Awesome”: one of my favorite post-rock groups. Very typical of their sound.
  5. Tony Trischka Band, “Woodpecker”: Tony used to be my banjo teacher. I also think he’s the best banjo player in the world today – better even that Bela Fleck (another of his students). Tony’s playing is more sophisticated than Bela’s. He’s done more to revolutionize Banjo playing than anyone since Earl Scruggs. This track has some really interactions – unisons, and call/response type stuff between the sax and Tony’s banjo.
  6. The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band, “Take These Hands and Throw Them Into the River”: Absolutely incredible music from A Silver Mt. Zion. This is, quite possibly, my favorite thing by them. Very intense, rather loud for ASMZ. Amazing piece of work.
  7. Glass Hammer, “Ember Without Name”: Very long, very good track by an American neo-progressive band. When I first listened to this album, I was rather depressed – the first track is dull and repetitive. I was expecting it to follow in that pattern. This track blew me away. It’s not quite up there with the great prog bands, but it’s really good.
  8. Mandelbrot Set, “And the Rockets Red Glare”: math-geek post-rock; what’s not to love?
  9. Boiled in Lead, “Rasputin”: Very, very silly. This is a comedic song by an electric folk-rock band. It tells the story of Rasputin, set to music built form Russian
    folk song melodies. With lyrics like “Rah Rah Rasputin, Russia’s greatest love machine”.
  10. Sonic Youth, “Incinerate”: a truly great track from Sonic Youth.

Friday Random Ten

  1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, “Antennas to Heaven”: What can you really say about the greatest post-rock ensemble ever?
  2. The Windmill, “Please Keep War Stories to a Minimum”: a recent post-rock discovery of mine, via bitmunk. Excellent group.
  3. Rachel’s, “An Evening of Long Goodbyes”: Rachel’s is one of the more classical-leaning post-rock groups. They’re wonderful.
  4. Peter Schickele, “Listen Here, Tyrannosaurus Rex”: The discoverer of PDQ Bach, actually doing something really goofy in his own name. Fun, but silly.
  5. The Flower Kings, “Man Overboard”: The Flower Kings are, without the slightest doubt, one of the greatest, if not the greatest of the neo-progressive bands, and they could give the best of the original proggers a run for their money. This track is part of their double-album “Unfold the Future.” It’s an interesting piece – it starts off as a
    what seems like a simple little ballad, but the chorus involves a bunch of wonderfully strange chords and time changes. Just brilliant.
  6. The Redneck Manifesto, “Bring Your Own Blood”: Another great post-rock band in,
    roughly speaking, the Mogwai vein. Another really great group – The Redneck Manifesto is one of my favorites.
  7. Marillion, “Toxic”: a live version of Marillion covering a Britney Spears song. Who knew that a Britney tune could be anything other than total trash? Still not exactly a brilliant piece of music, but it’s not garbage, either.
  8. Apothecary Hymns, “The Marigold”: A nifty track by a very hard to categorize
    band. They’re sort of vaguely like early Fairport Convention, but with a very modern instrumental sound. I first heard these guys on New York’s NPR station. They’re really good.
  9. Mogwai, “I know you are but what am I?”: Mogwai – among the best post-rock out there. Not enough good things that I can say about them. This track is an ethereal wonder.
  10. Spock’s Beard, “Onomatapea”: the first track off SBs first album after the
    originally band leader found religion and quit. I know a lot of SB fans dislike this album, and particularly dislike this song, but I really don’t know why. It’s the first SB song I heard, and I still think it’s terrific – better than a lot of the older Morse-written stuff.

Friday Random 10

Haven’t done this in a while: 10 random tracks from my iPhone:

  1. Porcupine Tree, “The Sky Moves Sideways”
  2. Mogwai, “I Chose Horses”. Mellowness from one of the greatest Post-Rock groups around.
  3. Thinking Plague, “Lux Lucet”. Thinking Plague is one of the strangest things
    I listen to. I don’t know quite how to describe it. Often atonal, seriously dissonant when not outright atonal, oddly structured. It’s very peculiar stuff, definitely not to everyone’s taste.
  4. Gordian Knot, “Singularity”. A very hard/loud instrumental piece. Definitely in the prog genre. Beautiful guitar solos, great bass pulse driving it.
  5. Marillion, “King”.
  6. Lunasa, “Punch”
  7. Naftule’s Dream, “The Wanderer”. Would you believe progressive Klezmer?
  8. King Crimson, “Neal and Jack and Me”.
  9. Pink Floyd, “Marooned”. It’s a crime to call this dreck Pink Floyd, when in
    fact it’s really nothing more than Dave Gilmour masturbating with his guitar. Ick.
  10. PDQ Bach, “Es War Ein Dark Und Shtormy Night”. If you’re not in the know,
    PDQ Bach is the alter ego of Music professor Peter Schickele. He claims that PDQ is
    the 13th illegitimate child of J.S. Bach. Schickele in constantly “finding” PDQ Bach
    compositions lining birdcages, etc. This is from PDQ’s period of setting “poetry” to
    what passes for music to PDQ. Featuring words like “Approaching I saw ein Knight in shining armor with ein codpiece enorm,” set to pseudo-Schubert. Great for laughs, and not to be
    missed if you get a chance to see him live!

Musical Goofiness with a Mathy-Bent

Ladies and gentlemen.. For your pleasure and edification, allow me to present… The singing Tesla coils!

Yes, if you’re clever, and you’re willing to do a whole lot of work, you can operate a Tesla coil so that the sparking from the coil produces a particular pitch. Even you’re even more clever, you can vary the way that the coil is run to produce different pitches, and arrange it into a song. And if you’re really remarkably clever, you can set up two singing Tesla coils, and have them play a duet.

Friday Not-So-Random 10

This past week, I discovered a new digital music download site, called Bitmunk. It’s less expensive
than iTunes or Amazon, and has a fantastic selection of obscure bands. Through Bitmunk, I found
a couple of terrific new neo-progressive bands, which has me on a serious prog kick. So for today, I’ve
narrowed the domain of the randomization to just the progressive stuff, and I also cheated a bit to make
sure that the two best of the new bands I found are included in the list.

Just to be clear, I’ve got no connection with Bitmunk, they’re not giving me anything to mention them, etc. I found them by way of a comment in the last FRT here. Someone pointed me at the Bayprog website, which I followed to find a link to Metaphor’s website; after listening to a sample there, I decided to buy their album, and they linked to Bitmunk for digital purchases.

  1. The Mars Volta, “Inertiatic ESP”. The Mars Volta is a recent discovery for me, but not
    via the new site. They’re a sort of hyperkinetic neo-progressive group. The best I can do at describing them is to say that they sound like a cross between King Crimson and Dream Theatre, hopped up on too
    much caffeine. They’re very good – wonderful when I’m in the right mood, but they’re not the easiest
    listen. There’s so much going on, so many fast twists and shifts that it’s easy to get lost. This is a very typical one of their tracks. Weird rhythmic shifts, incredible density. Very cool stuff.
  2. The Flower Kings, “Pioneers of Aviation”. I love the Flower Kings. They are, in my opinion,
    the very best of the neo-progressive bands. Their music is brilliantly written – deep, complex, but still
    melodic, and they’ve got the chops to really pull it off. This is one of my favorite instrumental tracks
    off of their second most recent album. There’s just no way I can say enough about how great the FKs
  3. Elegant Simplicity, “Time to Breath”. This is one of the two great bands that I discovered
    through Bitmunk. This is the opening track off of their album “The Architect of Light”. I think it’s
    a good introduction to them. The opening is wonderfully strange; a capella voice singing the melody
    that will become the main theme, placed over a strange King Crimsonesque background of tape loop
    and selected noise – with the vocals in a different key than the background, creating a dissonance
    out of what will turn out to be a very smooth melodic theme. They’re clearly very influenced by
    the Flower Kings – they’ve got a very FKish sound; but not derivative, just clearly influenced.
    Very good stuff, I highly recommend it.
  4. Marillion, “Ocean Cloud”. You can’t talk about neo-prog rock without mentioning Marillion. During the dark days of the 80s, they were one of the only bands keeping the progressive flame
    alive. This track is an 18 minute opus off of the “Marbles” double-album, and it’s a great example
    of what I think makes Marillion so great. What they’ve always been best at, to me, is transitions: the best moments in their music are always in the points of change, where they’re shifting between themes or moods. “Ocean Cloud” really shows this off, as it shifts back and forth between gentle, almost lullaby-like delicacy, and roaring intensity.
  5. King Crimson, “FraKctured”. You can’t talk about any kind of progressive rock without mentioning King Crimson. In my opinion they’re just the best progressive group ever, period. They’ve
    gone through many incarnations over the years, from the days when they started off as “The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles, and Fripp”; to the original King Crimson; to the Red era, to the quartet
    with Fripp, Belew, Bruford, and Levin; to the fractalized ProjeCKts; to the current quartet group. Each
    era has been different, all have been amazing.
  6. Spock’s Beard, “Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go”. One of the first really great
    bands in the current wave of neo-progressive. A good track off of their latest album.
  7. Metaphor, “Wheel of the World”. The other of my Bitmunk discoveries. This is from a
    great album, “Entertaining Thanatos”, which the group describes as “Seven lighthearted songs about death”. Metaphor isn’t quite up there with “Elegant Simplicity”, but they’re very good. They’ve got
    some pretty clear influences: there’s a strong sense of King Crimson and the Flower Kings about
    their style. But there’s also some very distinctive and unique stuff. Very good, definitely worth
    listening to.
  8. King Crimson, “Requiem”. More King Crimson. You can never go wrong with more Crimson!
    This is from the second album with Adrian Belew on vocals, but the track is dominated by Fripp’s
    unique guitar.
  9. Porcupine Tree, “The Sky Moves Sideways, Phase 2”. The only neo-progressive group with
    a chance of competing with the Flower Kings for the title of “Best Neo-prog”. I don’t think that
    they quite manage to beat out the Kings, but they come closer than anyone else. This is from their
    most “out there” album. A must listen album.
  10. Pink Floyd, “Astronomy Domine”. And we finish off with something very much not
    Neo. A track from Pink Floyd’s debut album in the 1960s. The version that I’m listening to is the
    1969 live performance from Ummagumma. This version just gives me chills. A mediocre quality recording that’s nearly 40 years old, and it manages to not sound dated at all.

Friday Random Ten

Sorry for the slow posting this week, but work has been a bit intense, and I’ve also had some
family matters to take care of, which have left me with very little blogging time. Hopefully things will
be a bit less insane next week. In the meantime, here’s a random bunch of weird music I’ve been listening to.

  1. The Mars Volta, “This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed”: the Mars Volta is a neo-progressive band I recently discovered. They’re on the dark and noisy side. The best description I can give is that they sound sort of like what you’d get if you mixed King Crimson and Dream Theater, and then fed them too much caffeine.
  2. Spock’s Beard, “Onomatapea”: a track from the first SB album after the original bandleader left. The album as a whole is kind of hit-or-miss; this song is one of the really good ones.
  3. John Corigliano, “Pianissimo Scherzo” from the Red Violin Concerto, performed by Joshua Bell: if you like semi-atonal modern classical music – which I do – this is simply spectacular; one of the finest new compositions I’ve heard in years, performed with elegance by one of the most amazing violinists in the world.
  4. Lunasa, “Mi Na Samhna”: a beautiful Uillean pipe-led traditional Irish lament.
  5. The Redneck Manifesto, “Who Knows?”: great post-rock in the same stylistic vein as Mogwai.
  6. Sonic Youth, “Titanium Expose”: Old Sonic Youth. Noisy, strange tonality, crazy guitar playing. Brilliant.
  7. Elizabeth and the Catapult, “Waiting for the Kill”: a song by a NYC band. I’m not sure how
    to classify; jazzy folk-rock maybe? They’re a great band.
  8. Rush, “Malignant Narcissism”: great instrumental track by Rush.
  9. Porcupine Tree, “Fear of a Blank Planet”: the title track from Porcupine Tree’s brilliant latest album. If you like neo-progressive rock at all, this album is a must-have.
  10. A Silver Mt. Zion, “Goodbye Desolate Railyard”: a track off of another Silver Mt. Zion album that I just got. The album is “This is our punk-rock, thee rusted satellites gather+sing”. It’s my favorite of the ASMZ albums that I’ve heard, which is saying a lot. This isn’t my favorite track, mostly
    because I don’t care for the voice of the lead-singer. But a mediocre track by ASMZ would be a
    spectacular one by almost anyone else.

Fugues: from the Ridiculous to the Sublime

Via YouTube, I came across this little gem. Who would have thought that you could create a beautiful fugue from a Britney Spears song?

Fugues are one of my favorite musical forms. There’s something magical (and something mathematical) about the way it sounds when a theme counterpoints itself. Anyway – here it is, the Danny Pi video “How to Write a Fugue”, featuring the “Oops, I did it again fugue”, from a theme by Britney Spears.

Now that you’ve heard the “Oops I did it again” fugue, here’s a better example of the form, by the great master himself, Johann Sebastian Bach. A little slice of musical perfection to brighten your day. The video is a bit heavy on clever tricks (it’s the “Wedge Fugue”, so naturally, they use a bunch of wedge effects), but the music is stunning.

Friday Random 10

  1. Naftule’s Dream, “Something is There”: What do you get when you mix up a traditional Klezmer band with Ornette Coleman, plus just a bit of thrash? Naftule’s Dream.
  2. Genesis, “Counting out Time”: a catchy little tune from Peter Gabriel’s opus with
    Genesis, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”: It’s astonishing just how undated this sounds.
  3. Mogwai, “Glasgow Mega-Snake”: one of my favorite tracks by one of my favorite post-rock bands. This one should be listened to loud to really get the full effect.
  4. Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 3)”: Wow, now here’s one I haven’t listened
    to in a very long time. It’s as good as I remembered.
  5. Porcupine Tree, “Prepare Yourself”: Brilliant stuff from Porcupine Tree.
  6. New Grange, “Going to Boston”: This is what happens when Darol Anger gets goofy: a sort
    of old-timey rap song based on a traditional New England fiddle tune. This is great fun to see
  7. Hugh Blumenfield, “Longhaired Radical Socialist Jew”: the greatest gospel song of all time. “Jesus was a homeless lad with an unwed mother and an absent dad; And I don’t really think he’d
    have gotten that far, if Newt, Pat, and Jesse had followed that star. So let’s all sing out praised to that Longhaired Radical Socialist Jew”.
  8. Rush, “Bravest Face”: It’s really good to hear Rush back in full form. This is a great song, and so obviously Rush – the Peart drums, the Lifeson guitar playing, and above it all Geddy Lee’s voice and amazing bass playing.
  9. Spock’s Beard, “All That’s Left”: SB is a great neo-progressive band. They went through
    a bit of a rough patch a few years ago, when the former leader of the band found Jesus and quit the
    band. This album is the first where they really feel like they’re comfortable with the new lineup. It’s definitely got a different sound from a lot of their older stuff, but it’s still recognizable as the same band. This is a really nice track – it’s almost a ballad, but with a really solid structure, some odd rythyms, and a lot of transitions.
  10. Jonathan Coulton, “Todd the T1000”: A very silly song from a very geeky pop-singer.