Bands that traffic in psychedelic/stoner-rock orthodoxy often follow a dogmatism that rings shallow. In one fell swoop — three songs, to be precise — Baltimore quartet Arbouretum effectively lays waste to anyone who’s ever bowed at the altar of the fuzzed-out guitar to mask (or revel in) creative bankruptcy.
Moses Avalon is one of the nation’s leading music-business consultants and artists’-rights advocates and is the author of a top-selling music business reference, Confessions of a Record Producer. More of his articles can be found at www.mosesavalon.com.
The Mayan calendar claims that the world will come to an abrupt end in 2012. We have all heard the hype and suffered through the movies. But even if that prediction falls flat, the pop-music business may still experience its own armageddon shortly thereafter. Are these just the ravings of another music-industry expert flying off the rails? Let’s see.
In 2013, many classic recordings are scheduled to slip out of the control of their major labels. No, I’m not referring to odd recordings that no one actually collects. This list of records includes some of the top-selling albums of all time (abbreviated list below)!
Even though music-business insiders have been dreading this for years, the New York Times finally decided that it was a newsworthy enough subject and published a piece a few weeks ago about this issue (called “termination of masters”). Unfortunately, the reporter they assigned seemed to a have limited understanding of how the music business really works, as well as of copyright in general. In his article, he kept interchanging the word “songs” with “master recordings,” which littered his post with inaccurate statements like, “artists can claim their songs in 2013.”
Though this New York Times piece may be new info to outsiders, it is a subject that has long been on the minds of those concerned with the recording industry and artist rights. I reported about the subject in a 2008 Moses Supposes article. Here’s the reprint for your perusal:
Mayan meltdown at majors
The hot topic for the American Bar Association conference in 2008 was “termination of masters,” a little raison d’etre in the copyright act that supposedly levels the playing field for authors who are often at a disadvantage to the big, bad publisher (or record company, in this case). The copyright act states that after 35 years, the license or transfer of a work must “terminate” and revert back to the original author.
Kevin and Anita Robinson comprise Portland, Oregon-based rock-n-roll band Viva Voce. The married couple has released six full-length albums since the late ’90s, the latest of which is called The Future Will Destroy You. With Kevin hammering the drums with machine-like precision and Anita producing catchy hooks and riffs with classic-rock cool, it’s a surprisingly lighthearted sound for such a foreboding title. The band’s sticking by its claim, though, and recently compiled this apocalyptic playlist for ALARM.
1. The Stooges: “Search & Destroy”
I’m a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm. ‘Nuff said.
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Incorporating clusters of percussion, classical accompaniment, and swelling drones, Chicago-born trio Pillars & Tongues generate a unique conglomerate of folk, chamber, and gothic musical styles. Baritone vocalist Mark Trecka, violinist Beth Remis, and bassist Evan Hydzik explore melodic frontiers, reshaping Pillars & Tongues’ origins of the former soul-folk band Static Films into a project of dynamic and organic experimentation.
The past several years of extensive touring have done well to feed Pillars & Tongues’ musical curiosity. With the release of its third full-length album, The Pass & Crossings, the group continues to produce myriad tonal colors and textures. ALARM caught up with Trecka to discuss the band’s years-long touring stretch, composing, recording, and the new record.
With 300 performances in the past three years, Pillars & Tongues has been described as a “transient force” and “in near-constant motion.” Do you ever get weary of continuously being on the road?
Of course we get weary of continuously being on the road, but anybody can get weary of anything. I personally haven’t kept a residence in the past two years, but when I last did so, I got weary of that from time to time and wanted to be in motion. I’m not sure that I can say for certain which state, at its weariest, is more wearisome, but stopping isn’t really an option for me at the moment. There are those among us who are pretty certain that the road is the most wearying state of being and so tend to resist it, I think. And some of us find home and road equally wearying; that is to say, whatever way we go, we all end up in the same place. And like Beth says about touring, it’s cheaper than just driving around.
Giving service to the music and the musicophiles who go in search for it, Now-Again Records has released a stunning overview of 1970s Indonesian funk, rock, and psychedelia recordings in an anthology titled Those Shocking, Shaking Days. The title is a perfect summation of the sounds coming from the compilation; deep funk gems and gritty rock riffs are captured in the lowest of lo-fi senses, driven to the head by relentless fuzz guitars, psychedelic howls, and all kinds of general weirdness.
Helmed by Now-Again’s head honcho Egon, with research and crate digging from producer Jason “Moss” Connoy (and the not-to-be overlooked assistance from Indonesian rock legend Benny Soebardja, who secured all the necessary rights), the compilation is what happens when the record-collector gods align everything just right. Add in a thick booklet with groovy album art, eccentric band photos that could only belong to the ’70s, and extensive track-by-track notes from Holland-based Indonesian ex-pat Chandra Drews, Those Shocking, Shaking Days does an incredible job of giving listeners the whole package.
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Though it won’t be the top result in a typical Internet search, Philadelphia-based The War on Drugs is definitely taking the title of America’s longest-running, most counter-productive conflict and making it its own. Aside from the very specific cultural reference and obvious inclination toward psychedelia, “The War on Drugs” is a vague band name — referentially devoid of musical context. That’s exactly why singer-songwriter Adam Granduciel was first attracted to the name when he came up with it years ago, drinking wine with a friend in Oakland, California.
Almost 10 years later, Granduciel and The War on Drugs use a discordant miasma of oblong and tangled tape-loops, anxious drum beats, gnarled knots of guitar riffs, and a dissociative lyrical narrative to speak to forgotten, lovelorn have-nots. The trio has undergone various lineup tweaks, including the subtraction of band co-founder Kurt Vile to his solo project, but it has continued to successively build upon its uncanny sound with each new release.
On its most recent release, Future Weather, the group’s sound moves away from the classic-rock influences to more ambient landscapes where Granduciel can better articulate the lachrymose environment that surrounds him. Yet, through the course of the album, The War on Drugs ultimately ends up in the same rustic dust storm of a musical illusion that it started in: translating the hum of a busy train station, crafting nomadic anthems for vagabond romantics with enough self-awareness and ambition to stave off desperation.
In advance of a North American tour with Destroyer, Granduciel recently took some time to answer a few questions about The War on Drugs, its “Americana” sound, and how it’s really just a kind of jam band.
From the live shows that I’ve seen, there seems to be a somewhat raw or spontaneous musical aesthetic rather than a polished one. Does that play a factor in how you prepare for live shows? Do you like to work out songs in a live setting as a way of making each show different from the last?
I don’t know which shows you saw because, really, it probably went one of two ways — the other way being legendarily sloppy, yet hopefully somewhat inspiring. We don’t really over-rehearse, though — just jam the songs for a few days before a tour, and things usually come together pretty quickly. After our practices for this tour, I’m really, really excited for the growth that we’ll see on this Destroyer tour.
Four years since its first show, Japandroids played back-to-back shows, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, in Chicago. The duo sat down with photo journalist Brian Leli to take stock of its progress and revel in the moment.