From The Desk Of Holsapple & Stamey: Megafaun’s “Gather, Form And Fly”

hp100bThere are many people who consider the first two albums by the dB’s to be just as influential as those revered early Velvet Underground releases. The singing/songwriting backbone of the dB’s was the tandem of Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, whose simpatico musical attraction was strong enough to fuel Mavericks, an excellent 1991 album by the duo. Eighteen years later, the longtime friends have released the equally stirring Here And Now. The pair has also begun recording again with the dB’s, including original bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby. Holsapple and Stamey are guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week. Read our Q&A with them.

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Chris: I mix a lot of records these days, and sometimes I don’t know much about the band before the tracks arrive. I’d mixed a record that I loved by the Rosebuds, called Life Like, and I knew that they were touring with a bassist from a band called Megafaun, a trio that had, in an earlier iteration, once included Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Knowing that their instrumentation was banjo, acoustic guitar and percussion and seeing some energized, noisy clips on YouTube didn’t prepare me for the record that showed up: It was a Crosby, Stills & Nash record! No, it was Workingman’s Dead! No, it was Zappa and prepared-pianos Stockhausenian electronics! No, it was alt-country with some Pete Seeger in there, too! The first track I mixed, “Kaufman’s Ballad,” told the tale of the stealing of Gram Parsons’ body by Phil Kaufman, his road manager, and its subsequent burning in the desert. This modern but almost mythological tale was set to harmonies and shimmering chords that remarkably evoked that desert night, the atmosphere seemingly warped by the flames as Parsons’ ashes danced. I was transfixed. Every track was distinct (the band has three different writers; this helps), and yet, all together it felt like an album—a connected piece of work—culminating in its dynamic peak, a song called “Guns,” that lifts the spirits like the Clash and then dissolves them like Edgar Varese. We all know that “shuffle” and the iPod have made the long-playing album sequence a bit of a dinosaur, but I still believe in the long form, and Megafaun’s Gather, Form And Fly is a good reason to worship there.

“The Fade” (download):

This concludes “Holsapple & Stamey Week” here at magnetmagazine.com. Thanks to Peter and Chris for their thought-provoking posts. Be sure to check out Here And Now.

MP3 At 3PM: Choir Of Young Believers

choir400Whether or not Denmark’s Choir Of Young Believers wants to be compared to Fleet Foxes, the Pixies or Roy Orbison is, well, up to them. But frontman Jannis Noya Makrigiannis’ enchanting and—you guessed it—choir-like vocals, paired with theatrical instrumentals and outside-of-the-box percussion arrangements, make COYB comparable to a somber Architecture In Helsinki. The crew of creative Danes has released first single “Action/Reaction” from upcoming full-length This Is For The White In Your Eyes (Ghostly International, due August 18).

“Action/Reaction” (download):

In The News: The Clean, Polvo, Big Star, The Weakerthans, Paul McCartney And Free MP3s

clean545Another day, another band reunion. But here are a couple we can certainly get behind, courtesy of our pals at Merge Records. New Zealand legends the Clean (pictured) return September 8 with Mister Pop, the group’s first studio effort since 2001’s Getaway. Download “In The Dreamlife You Need A Rubber Soul”Polvo has reformed to issue In Prism, the math rockers’ first LP since 1997’s Shapes, also out September 8. A short run of gigs starts June 26 in Charlotte, N.C., and includes a set at XX Merge, the label’s 20th anniversary festival. Download Jason Forrest’s “Dark New Age (Polvo Remix)” … As with many reunions, boxed sets often seem to honor artists who seem unworthy of a large collection. Not so with Keep An Eye On The Sky (Rhino), a four-CD package celebrating Big Star. Out September 15, the set will, uh, set you back $69.98, but considering it includes demos, unreleased tracks and live takes, it’s probably worth selling some plasma to afford. Listen to the previously unreleased “Lovely Day” … Canada’s finest, the Weakerthans, will be crossing the border for some West Coast dates, starting July 18 in Seattle. East Coast and Midwest shows kick off September 16 in Boston. An iTunes session recorded during the band’s recent Rolling Tundra Revue will be available June 30. Download “Sun In An Empty Room”Regina Spektor’s new record, far (gotta love the lower case), is out June 23 on Sire. It’s available for pre-order at iTunes … Paul McCartney is slated to play the first concerts at the new Citi Field in New York City, July 17-18 … Looking for free music? Al Jourgensen (Ministry) has you covered. His label, 13th Planet, has released a gratis digital EP featuring unreleased tracks, remixes and videos from the likes of the aforementioned Ministry plus Revolting Cocks, Prong and others. Download the thing …  A while ago—a few sentences ago, actually—we mentioned iffy reunions and boxed sets. We forgot to add unnecessary tribute records to the pet-peeve list. New Tales To Tell: A Tribute To Love And Rockets (Arsenal Rock ‘N’ Roll/Justice) is out July 28 digitally, August 18 physically. Frank Black, the Flaming Lips and the Dandy Warhols highlight the participants, plus there’s Better Than Ezra doing “So Alive.” It sells itself … Closing this litany of annoyances is the hyperbolic press release. Here’s the dooziest of the doozies: “It’s without a doubt that two of the most legendary and important bands in the history of rock music have been Def Leppard and the Sex Pistols.” Without a doubt. The reason for such ridiculousness: Man Raze, the new band featuring Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen and Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, whose album, Surreal (VH1 Records), is now available. And you wonder why we’re cranky.

From The Desk Of Holsapple & Stamey: New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund

hp100bThere are many people who consider the first two albums by the dB’s to be just as influential as those revered early Velvet Underground releases. The singing/songwriting backbone of the dB’s was the tandem of Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, whose simpatico musical attraction was strong enough to fuel Mavericks, an excellent 1991 album by the duo. Eighteen years later, the longtime friends have released the equally stirring Here And Now. The pair has also begun recording again with the dB’s, including original bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby. Holsapple and Stamey are guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week. Read our Q&A with them.

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Peter: After Hurricane Katrina, former dB’s bassist Jeff Beninato and his wife Karen Dalton-Beninato relocated to the Midwest and set up the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund with the displaced and distressed musicians of the city in mind. They have gotten help from Dr. John, R.E.M., Wilco, a host of local musicians and, of course, the dB’s in raising money and consciousness about the issues facing post-Katrina players in New Orleans. (Many lived in the devastated Ninth Ward.) NOMRF has been able to get pianos and horns to good homes, where they’re being used to learn and earn on. For all intents and purposes, Katrina is a dead issue to a world consumed by its economic upheaval these days; not so if you’re still in New Orleans, where the reminders color actions every day that most people take for granted. (Try cashing a check in a bank that lost all its signature cards in the flooding.) Jeff and Karen have made this charity a living example of how we’re supposed to behave toward our less-fortunate neighbors, continuing long after the waters have receded and keeping their welfare paramount.

Film At 11: Placebo

Placebo announced the June 9 arrival of Battle For The Sun (Vagrant) with a sneak leak of the entire album on its website. Watch frontman Brian Molko bat his coal-rimmed eyes on the title track. Sun is the first Placebo album to feature drummer Steve Forrest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZhvHP4JMqs

From The Desk Of Holsapple & Stamey: Stravinsky’s “The Rite Of Spring”

hp100bThere are many people who consider the first two albums by the dB’s to be just as influential as those revered early Velvet Underground releases. The singing/songwriting backbone of the dB’s was the tandem of Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, whose simpatico musical attraction was strong enough to fuel Mavericks, an excellent 1991 album by the duo. Eighteen years later, the longtime friends have released the equally stirring Here And Now. The pair has also begun recording again with the dB’s, including original bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby. Holsapple and Stamey are guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week. Read our Q&A with them.

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Chris: Before the Sex Pistols’ tour of America, before Elvis incited riots in concert, there was the Paris premiere in 1913 of Igor Stravinsky’s orchestral ballet score The Rite Of Spring. Although this work is now part of the standard repertoire, at the time its musical innovations—including shifting, complex time signatures, loud drums and nontraditional dissonances—were shocking and, taken altogether, unprecedented. The sounds, coupled with the sight of the dancers’ onstage depiction of fertility rites, incited an unrest and agitation in the audience that grew into a full-scale riot. It started from the very beginning: The harmonization of the bassoon’s signature riff caused catcalls and whistling, then fights broke out in the audience as the turbulent rhythms began. Even though the police arrived by intermission, they could not completely quell the chaos, though the orchestra and dancers bravely continued to the end of the piece. This was mostly the shock of the new musical vocabulary Stravinsky had found to describe the libretto—involving the sacrifice of a young girl to the gods of fertility, if memory serves—but it was also an example of the real power of music itself to be more than just a “uh huh,” a buzz band and a background noise on the laptop. Music can shake you and envelop you. And the work itself, years later, caused an upheaval in my life: It was the first time I had heard a world of music possibility beyond the safe confines of pop music and Romantic classics. I could not put the headphones down. This had guts and grip and the constant feel of a committed intelligence at the helm. This was what large-scale musical composition could be. And I venture to suggest that it still functions as a “gateway drug” into what can be done with focused musical imagination and hard work. If you don’t know it, you owe it to yourself to find out what the riot was all about.

MP3 At 3PM: UUVVWWZ

uuvvwwzGo ahead, try to say this band’s name; we’ll wait. For those unfamiliar with UUVVWWZ, the stream of letters may turn you away, but give it a chance. It’s pronounced “double ‘U,’ double ‘V,’ double ‘W,’ ‘Z'”; this fun-loving quartet’s self-titled debut (on Saddle Creek) drops July 7. Formed in Lincoln, Neb., in 2007, the band is often compared to Deerhoof, Captain Beefheart and Bow Wow Wow. Teal Gardner, lead singer of UUVVWWZ, explains to MAGNET, “Music is a unifier … a personal exploration intensified within a song!” You just can’t argue with that.

“Shark Suit” (download):

Normal History Vol. 11: The Art Of David Lester

davidleaster_11_360Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

In 1985, David and I went to a Vancouver record pressing plant to watch the final preparation of our LP. We asked the guy to write “we live on Indian land” around the inner groove of the LP, and the guy asked if I was singing in Indian. Huh? Some weeks later, we loaded 500 LPs into the trunk and backseat of my Toyota Corolla. We sent the record out to a handful of college radio stations in Canada, and soon the first response arrived: two pieces of mail from the University of Alberta in Edmonton on the same day. A radio-station playlist with Mecca Normal at number one and the station’s magazine with a review of the album saying it was the worst record ever made. The guy said I should be killed. Actually, he said Dave should kill me. This polarity has continued through Mecca Normal’s history: Some hate us, others are passionate about what we do. A very interesting vantage point to occupy for 25 years. There is great value to the activity of debate in the margins, where it is important to establish and maintain many voices. We are happy to stimulate this enterprise. It is not a service we set out to provide, but a strange bi-product of making music as social and cultural agitation. In her NPR column Monitor Mix, Carrie Brownstein recently quoted what I wrote about nasty comments on Brooklyn Vegan after an excellent piece about our recent tour. “People participate in media now, and this is what people interject with in this quadrant of culture—it’s rather depressing to think that there have been a lot of quiet people, and now they speak in comment boxes and type things like—’hag’ and ‘douchebag’—and I thought about the sad, low state these guys must be in psychologically, and how men in general, have, as well as being socialized to hide emotions other than anger, have also learned to hide misogyny, allowing it to spew in blog comment boxes, anonymously—it’s some kind of barometer.” Along with the name-callers were the defenders of Mecca Normal and a most interesting comment: “Just because a lot of people agree on something doesn’t mean they’re right.”

From The Desk Of Holsapple & Stamey: Paperbird

hp100bThere are many people who consider the first two albums by the dB’s to be just as influential as those revered early Velvet Underground releases. The singing/songwriting backbone of the dB’s was the tandem of Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, whose simpatico musical attraction was strong enough to fuel Mavericks, an excellent 1991 album by the duo. Eighteen years later, the longtime friends have released the equally stirring Here And Now. The pair has also begun recording again with the dB’s, including original bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby. Holsapple and Stamey are guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week. Read our Q&A with them.

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Peter: In an age where actual handwritten correspondence seems to be on the wane thanks to technology (like what I’m using right now), it’s great to see that Paperbird is making beautiful stationery. Debra Jane Quinlan is a friend in Raleigh, N.C., who designs and prints cards, journals and other paper goods. They have a delicate design with simple and peaceful images. These are the kind of cards that deserve only the most loving sentiments inside; I can imagine a stack of them, bundled together and tied up with a satin ribbon, preserved in a bureau drawer for ages and read and re-read in times of emotional need. Guilty as I am of slacking in that department, Paperbird cards inspire me to write love notes to my wife that befit the images on their fronts. The motto at Paperbird is “correspond like you mean it,” a fine suggestion in this busy, cyber-heavy time. Surely you owe someone a letter?

Film At 11: Loudon Wainwright III

Nearly 80 years after the death of Charlie Poole, singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III has created a project that examines and celebrates the country-music pioneer. The two-CD set High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project will be released on August 25 and features not only Poole songs performed by Wainwright and friends, but also some new songs written about Poole’s life and times. Guests on the tracks include Wainwright’s son Rufus and daughters Martha and Lucy, the Roches and Chris Thile. Check out some behind-the-scenes footage.