Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Still #1

glistening by the numbers: ONE

Funkadelic - "One Nation Under a Groove"

41: Per me; long, cliched, monotonous. Per how these things go; fairly funky, excellent in parts, overall average.

Avi: I'm sitting here in my stiflingly hot house on a Friday afternoon trying to ease into the weekend and bam! Here comes Funkadelic to help me on my way. How could anyone not smile while listening to this? My first introduction to this song was through Ice Cube's "Bop Gun", but the original is obviously far, far better.

Lee: Funkadelic are kind of hit or miss with me. I know how important they are, but I can't help not loving everything. Some of their stuff just rocks. Other times, the groove feels weak and just blobs along with no direction or purpose. This track isn't bad, but it's not a favorite and it certainly doesn't need to be 7 minutes long. I would love to hear a fuzzed-out synth solo or something, and lay off the vocals a bit. Gonna go play me some Dazz now.

Jamie: If only the nation were under one groove...need a dance floor close by. The two phrases repeated throughout left James Brown and Little Feat running on the tape deck in my head for hours.

Rosecrans: The big boogie, now reserved for movies about college and smoking pot. Follows DJ Shadow nicely, and sets up hopes for a good mix! I love the now-ubiquitous bouncing-spring noise. BBD used it in a big song of theirs around '97. I remember because the video used to be very popular on South African MTV. I was living in Cape Town at the time with an African family, and my host brother and I used to practice the dance moves in front of the TV.

When you consider that it spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard R+B charts, calling "One Nation" too long is like calling the Sistine Chapel too darn big. I could (and HAVE!) put this on repeat for hours at a time.

For me, this is pretty much untouchable; the elastic thump, the squeaking and sliding synths, the relentless soul vamping Clinton and that wickedbadassfunky guitar line make for a happy boy.

"Doh-dohdy-oh-doh", ya'll.

Buy "One Nation Under a Groove", Funkadelic's 1978 soulsalivasaviourlicious LP, from Amazon.
With the notable exception of "Who Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock?!?" (in this instance, they can't), this is a solid enjoyable K-lassic throughout. If you've never bought any of the Clinton Parliament/Funkadelic catalog before, this is a good a place to start as any.
Visit Priority Records official Funkadelic site.
Explore George Clinton's official funksite.
With Color Me Funktelechy action!
Listen to lengthy interviews with Clinton and Company in realaudio.


Nas - "One on One"

The 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle "Street Fighter: the Movie" is probably best known (when it's remembered at all) as the worst bit of miscasting that poor Raul Julia had to suffer through; but would you believe that it's soundtrack spawned a superobscure Illmatic era Nas cut?

While certainly not on a par with Nasir's better material from that time, this still holds up pretty damn well. Regardless, hearing the always uber-serious Nas quip about his "brawl with Blanka" and how he "caught Bison in the thinker" is priceless.

Buy the surprising "Street Fighter the Movie Soundtrack" from Amazon.
Obscure videogame themed tracks from Ras Kass, Ice Cube and the Pharcyde? Angelique Kidjo, even?
And four words: Deion Sanders/Hammer collabo.
Ye who say ye don't want to hear, I dub thee LIAR.
Visit Nasir's official site.
The Tomatometer is not too kind to the Street Fighter movie, but the game itself is gold.
Oh the hours I wasted...

Meeting the Neighbors

Fat Planet is another in the Radio Babylon school of linking to "artists' sites, labels or other legitimate sources" but F.P. is a bit more aspirant: offering itself as a de facto aggregator/taste filter of all manner of international music and then indexing the tracks by country.

Recent offerings include songs from !!!, Ulrich Schnauss, Air and Mouse on Mars.

Who got the whole world in their hands?


Fat Planet started as a way of logging playlists from Stuart Buchanan's 'new international music' radio show in Sydney, Australia and has quickly grown into a mp3 blog in its own right. The blog, like the show, is designed to promote new, alternative from around the world - providing an alternative global music perspective that doesn't fall into the traditional 'world music' category. For example, psych-rock from Japan, breakcore from Egypt, electronica from Argentina, drum'n'bass from India etc. Our first post was on January 2004.
I work at a radio station full-time (FBi 94.5FM), which is the same station from which I present my show. In my spare time (not that there's much), I also work my wife on our own web design business. In recent years, we developed the site for Goldfrapp (which won the 2003 MTV Europe Web Award), for Groenland Records (nominated for 2004 Online Music Awards) and we've recently completed some work for Depeche Mode for their new remix collection. Which is all gut-bustingly exciting. Check out my personal site at zerogweb.net for all the info.

Where did the name of your blog originate from?
Derived from Leftfield's 'Phat Planet', but preferred the chubby version.
What are the criteria you judge a song by to decide if it's post-worthy?
Original, innovative, unlike anything we've heard before. Derivative rock bands need not apply.
What do you do for kicks when you're not posting?
Time is a cherished commodity... I'm usually preparing for the FAT PLANET radio show and I've recently taken on a 2nd radio show project for Australia's community radio satellite network - see theprototype.net
Five Desert Island Discs?
1. The Velvet Underground and Nico - "Eponymous"
2. Nina Simone - "Verve Jazz Masters"
3. Bjork - Homogenic
4. Boards of Canada - "Music Has the Right to Children"
5. Bill Hicks - "Arizona Bay"
Do you consider yourself a "music journalist"?
No, if i don't like something I won't post it - so therefore I'm only promoting music I like, rather than criticising music I don't. ed. note: This is spot on and hardly ever noted in discussion of the field.
What was the last track you heard that really changed your life?
Not sure about the life change, but CloudDead and the Mush crew inspired me to start writing music again, so that was an influential period.
Is there any genre of music that you dismiss out of hand?
I've yet to get excited about metal, which I think is entirely to do with the testosterone levels. In saying that, I really got off on the new Metallica documentary, so maybe there's a sleeping metalhead inside of me somewhere.
Which critical darling do you find most overrated? Who's the most overlooked genius in the music industry?
Jet, allegedly Australia's No.1 rock band. I read an interview where they went about how much they despised electronics, that 'techno' was the work of the devil etc. I just can't deal with narrow-mindedness, especially when it comes to music and especially not at that scale - i.e. dismissing entire genres. It just so lazy and misguided - and sadly representative a large group of supposed 'fans' of music. i.e. those people who have never dared to pick up an electronic album for fear their heads might implode. Overlooked? Einsturzende Neubauten should be in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
Recommend three other musicblog sites.
1. Swen's Weblog: The one that started my interest and still continues to deliver. Ostensibly a guide to artists that feature in The Wire magazine, but it's expanded to be much more comprehensive. As well as alternative and experimental music, it now includes alternative video, glitch art and a whole heap more.
2. Music For Robots: Consistently excellent. More electronica and dance as well as the odd post from somewhere very random in the world.
3. dozerblog: I ought to give props to a new kid on the block, whose tastes are almost 100% spot on.
Do you really think that posting music effectively promotes sales of the album?
Absolutely, it can't fail to. If only more artists and record companies would catch on to this fact. There are so many ways to read about artists, not so many to actually hear them. I'm not going to buy an album from an artist I haven't heard, that's too much of a risk. And having streaming real audio or windows media player files is way too time consuming and tedious - plus you can only listen to those when you're sitting in front of your PC. Alternatively, if I can grab an mp3, then I can throw it on the iPod, burn it to CD as part of a compilation and listen to it a few times. Once it's lodged in my brain and I've become a fan of the track, an album purchase surely follows.
Can you list a few bands that you enjoy listening to that might surprise your readers?
I used to really dig Madonna and still have a soft spot for her. Especially the "Like A Virgin" album. Oh, and Gary Numan.
Are you a proud member of the iPod Nation?
100% and very proud of it. iPod changed the way I listen to music and, by the genius invention of the 'shuffle' feature, I've found parts of my music collection that I never knew existed.
What's the best live show you've ever seen?
So hard to decide between them all, but the most dramatic was probably at last year's Yeah Yeah Yeahs gig in Sydney. After about 6 or 7 songs, Karen O took a tumble off the stage, fell head first into the mosh pit. Even though she was seriously injured, she opted to sits on the stage and sang an incredible version of Maps. At the end of the track, the paramedics grabbed her and whisked her off to hospital. That song will remain burned in my head for a long time to come.
Do you have a message for youngsters who'd like to start their own musicblog?
Be true to your own tastes and your sense of what's good and bad and don't worry if anyone disagrees.
The head of Sony/BMG is sitting across the table from you, asking how to improve the music industry for both the consumer and the company. What do you say?
There used to be an argument that the record companies' % profit from an artist's CD would go to fostering and developing new talent. Now that % seems to go to developing Pop Idol / American Idol rejects. Recently, a very famous and a very good Australian rock band was bumped from their record label - and at the same time, the label signed a whole crew of Idol wannabes. When the industry favours chancers signing cover versions (or insipid ballads) over original, exciting talent - then truly there is no hope.
Who's your favorite producer?
I really dig Mark Bell's work - formerly LFO (and not the American boy band, the Sheffield seminal techno duo). He recently produced Exciter for Depeche Mode and also does great work with Bjork.
What makes you so goddamn smart?
Listening to Bill Hicks, reading Kurt Vonnegut. Laugh in the face of stupidity.
Drop on by betterPropaganda and pick out a track to hype.

Boom Bip and the Boards of Canada - ""Last Walk Around Mirror Lake" (Remix)

There's so much good shit on there - recent posts like Milosh, Diplo and Subtle all comes from superb albums. However, my money goes to "Last Walk". As electronic music goes, this track has so much warmth and soul, it's a beautiful collaboration. Boards Of Canada are one of the best things that have happened to electronic music in the last few years and Boom Bip too is taking the genre into interesting territory. I saw him live in Sydney recently and I'm now happy to say that I'm a convert. So it goes.


Herein follows a somewhat spiffed up answer to the response "Do you have any suggestions as to how to run a musicblog?" that I got way back when from the then-embryonic-and-now-defunct Word in the Alleys:

So you want to be a wizard? Well you've come to the right place. Let's make a good musicblog, shall we?

What separates "good from bad" in my mind is the people who realize that the music comes first.

In the end, the point is not to get the most visitors but to disseminate the most music to the most people who will actually listen to and enjoy it. To that end:

1:) POST CONSISTENTLY. I know, I know; look who's talking. Still, this is very important. If you can only post (and we're talking about music here) one time a week, that's fine. Tell your readers that. If you miss a post or two, that's fine; just don't make a habit of it. If you post daily, great; BUT STICK TO POSTING DAILY. Consistency attracts people, constantly changing content is gonna make you somebody's homepage.

2:) HAVE A PERSPECTIVE. Don't just post music and tell us it's great. Give reasons that are personal to you; tell us about other similar tunage, talk about other work by the artist, find things to say about the song that give us insight into both the artist and the listener.

3): FIND A NEED AND FOOL IT. What exactly will you be posting? Are there fifteen other blogs out there that are gonna post the same thing? What do you have to bring to the table? If you've got a huge collection of polka; great! If you're into mainstream hiphop, not so much so. A good rule of thumb for me is that if you're just as likely to hear it on mtv or the radio, why bother? Leaf through your collection, find your strengths (in ownership and in knowledge) and try to steer the style in that direction. Some of my MUST READ blogs are MUST READ because nobody else is putting up what they're putting up (Cocaine Blunts; Honey, Where You Been So Long and Fat Planet come to mind immediately). Nobody's stopping you from changing course midstream; if you find that you're suddenly drawn to modern bird calls, have at it!

Here's a partial list of genres that I would love to see served on an audioblog: jazz (bebop, modern, fusion, whatever), country (old-school, bluegrass, modern), spoken word (comedy, speeches, lectures), classical, pop culture (tv themes, commercials, newscasts), instrument and/or region specific (clarinet/Zaire)...

You can be clever and make a collection of songs that make you wanna have sex... or get in a fight or turn off your brain or whatever! Genre theming lets your audience have a sense of what channel they're tuning in to. You're welcome to give them a surprise every once and again, but it's not bad to have a specialty.

4): BE KIND. Nobody likes to be told how shitty their taste is or how lousy band X is or whatever. Celebrate what you have to offer; don't beat up on musical styles or performers or other people's creative endeavors and others will respect you in turn.

5): CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. I try to make sure to link to more information on any artist I highlight and also give access to a spot where you could BUY more of the same if you wanted to and I'm glad to see that this is slowly becoming S.O.P.

99% of the time it's on Amazon anyway, so just put Amazon on your favorites and look em up. If the label that produces the album is minor league, google them and try to see if they sell direct. Nine times out of ten they'll be using Amazon, but it's best to direct the money as close to the artist as possible.

6): DO YOUR RESEARCH. Tell me something about the artist. Show some background; give me a bio; link to their personal page; point out other joints to get more music from these fellows.

7): SEEP IT KIMPLE... The best musicblogs I see are extremely simple in design. The more complex the design gets, the further away you get from the music. Furthermore, don't feel compelled to make EVERY post your alltime favorite post. It can get awful stressful after a month of posting your all-time favorites to find something that will top what you've just put up (plus a lack of response may be TERRIBLY disenheartening). Instead, consider allowing us to listen in to whatever obscure stuff you may have in current rotation.

7.5): BUT NOT _TOO_ KIMPLE. What's the point in posting JUST music? A very few musicblogs out there have a selection that's interesting enough where they can get away with it; unless you have nonstop bombs, you might want to try a little harder. Furthermore, what's the point in posting tracks that anybody could find on MTV or the radio or (god help us) any old P2P in a heartbeat? The world does NOT need more Hoobastank now; consider this a call for musicblogs to "keep it real". Please.

8):TALK IT UP. Visit other musicblogs. Leave messages; everyone's starved for attention. Contact other blogs that you think would like your stuff and hype yourself. They'll draw some attention to you and whatever sticks, sticks. You'll find your own niche over time.

9): BE PREPARED. Once you start getting REALLY going, you could be looking at well over thirty gigs of DL a month. Are you prepared for that kind of bandwidth drain? Try to not be a victim of your own success.

FWIW, something like the "brief statement" that I have flying on the right of my page stating that you will take down tracks if asked, that you're not attempting to infringe copyright, etc. may or may not provide legal protection (if I walk into a store and say, "Hey, I'm gonna take some stuff and leave; make sure to tell me if you think I'm stealing", that ain't gonna fly); at least it promises some good faith. Because really, you're NOT doing this for cash; it's COSTING you cash. You're doing it cuz you love music. If that's true, than it'll show on the page and really keep you and your readers in the game.

10): HAVE FUN, ASSHOLE! Musicgeeks are notoriously obsessive and running a musicblog rapidly becomes more responsibility than hobby. Try not to let that happen; set up a realistic posting schedule, enjoy the time you're spending writing and don't let traffic and response (or lack thereof) bother you. Just have fun!

And for crissakes, FIX YOUR MP3 TAGS!

That drives me nuts.

We still need to discuss Blogger and LiveJournal and hosting. Soon.


Daniel's Journey offers us "The Bush Administration".
It's no "George W. Pussy", but what IS?
If you're perverse enough to be curious about how _I_ would answer a Meeting the Neighbors session, you're not alone. David over at Largehearted Boy gave it a shot and you can find my inane answers here.
The New York Times gives credit where credit is due on the Arcade Fire CMJ buzz:
"All right," said Win Butler, sizing up the crowd late last Wednesday night at the Mercury Lounge. "We're the flavor of the month. Let's go."
The debut Arcade Fire album, "Funeral," was released barely a month ago, on Sept. 14, by the indie label Merge, based in North Carolina. Enthusiastic reviews were written, even more enthusiastic blog entries were posted, MP3's circulated. It used to take months of touring and record-shop hype for an underground band to build a cult, but now it takes only a few weeks. "I'd like to thank the Internet," Mr. Butler said...

Speaking of the Times, kudos to Fluxblog for the recent nod. Side by side with Trick Daddy and Brian Eno! Very impressive!

One quibble with the writeup: Alex Balk comments that "MP3 blogs are a dime a dozen". Interesting that WE'VE become flavor of the month so fast. Seems like only eight months ago there were only about a dozen to choose from, PERIOD. Let's not write off the zeitgeist quite so fast, eh?

Anyway, has anybody seen that SPIN article yet? I'm curious.
Can you HELP but get hooked by baseball right now? Bottom of the seventh and a game seven is looking more and more likely. S'gettin, s'gettin, s'gettin kinda hectic.