Archive for Brian Eno

The Magic Castles “Starflower” Revels In Anton Newcombe’s Influence

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2015 by johnbuckley100

In Japan, they call interconnected companies with deep, informal ties keiretsus. In Korea, they refer to business entities with interlocking relationships as chaebols. In rock’n’roll, we have Anton Newcombe who, in his multiple roles as leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, solo artist, producer, and head of the label A Records has connected a web of bands that collectively capture an outsized slice of real estate in our digital music collection, or in psychic-business terms, a large share of mind.

From Birdstriking to KVB, Tess Parks to Flavor Crystals, more often than not, the music that has preoccupied us in recent months somehow all connects back to Anton. Last week we wrote about the Flavor Crystals, whom we first heard open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre years ago. It got us to thinking, and sent us back to listen to the recently released fourth album by Magic Castles, the Minneapolis band we first heard opening for BJM in 2012, and about whom we wondered aloud, are the Magic Castles the best young band in America?

On Starflower, Magic Castles infuse the chiming, psychedelic pop that was so hypnotic on last year’s Sky Sounds in such a strong garage ambiance, you can practically taste the engine oil. Interestingly, for a band releasing their fourth album, it’s really only on this one that, time and again, you can hear the explicit influence of Newcombe; the songs don’t just sound like something BJM would have produced, they sound specifically like recent albums Newcombe’s recorded over the compressed, amazingly prolific last 18 months.

Starflower is not the first music we’ve heard that also invokes Eno’s first album, as Magic Castles do on “Samara,” but it is definitely the first album connecting Newcombe to an earlier multifaceted musician-producer-impresario around whom such great music revolved. Starflower may not take Tulip Frenzy’s Album of The Year, but we can’t stop listening to it. In fact, between the Anton Newcombe and Tess Parks album I Declare Nothing, The Shiver of the Flavor Crystals, and what we’ve heard so far from the impending Brian Jonestown Massacre Mini Album Thingy Wingy, we could, like a business in Japan or Korea, exist entirely within a single keiretsu, one integrated chaebol.

Is Henry Badowski’s “Life Is A Grand” THE Great Lost Album of All Time?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Gather my children, and you shall hear, of possibly the greatest record from the post-punk era that you can’t find on iTunes, can’t find on Spotify, can’t find anywhere but in the vinyl stacks of… mature people who have record players.

Back when Miles Copeland was leveraging IRS Records and using his power base as manager of his brother’s band, The Police, to bring good new music to an audience — succeeding with R.E.M., less so with The Fleshtones — one of the British acts whose record — there was only one — that he released to the world was Henry Badowski.  Life Is A Grand came out in 1981, and in the States at least, was discovered by approximately three people.  Happily we were one, and it brings a certain joy to tell you that just today, for the first time since the early Reagan years, we have dusted off the record, ascertained that our phonograph works, and put it on.

It holds up!  With just James Stevenson on guitar and bass, Badowski sang, played keyboards, programmed the drum machine, and played sax.  The record is like a mix of Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy and Bowie’s Low –– though it is so endearingly sweet, you have to imagine Bowie on ecstasy, not blow.  It is almost entirely upbeat, and the rhythm section could easily have been the Moxhams from Young Marble Giant — minimalist, spare — underneath Farfisas and simple keyboards.  All we see of Badowski from the album cover is a fey, Bryan Ferry head of hair posed near a hedge on one of those great British country gardens.  And that’s all we’ve seen of him for 30 years or more; he disappeared, at least on this side of the pond.  And the record?  It disappeared too.

If today you heard on the radio “My Face,” which leads off the album, you’d think it was a contemporary band that owed a debt to Eno, which is never a bad thing.  “My Face” was a minor British radio hit, but it’s “Henry’s In Love” that has kept spinning in our head for lo these many years, a gorgeous British pop song with a melody XTC’s Andy Partridge would have made too angular, would have stripped it of its languorous charm.  “Swimming With The Fish In The Sea,” has a bass line programmed by Bach after one too many lagers and is another song that you’d swear was an Eno outtake; if I put it on and claimed it was the lost Eno single, “Seven Deadly Finns,” you’d take it at face value.  “Silver Trees” sounds like it could have been sung by Wire’s Graham Lewis on a champagne bender.  “This Was Meant To Be” is somewhere between Berlin Trilogy Bowie and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

We could go on and describe each song lovingly.  Let’s stop here and posit this: if you have dirt on an executive at Rhino Records, if you have compromising pictures of one of the Copelands dropping off those CIA guns to the Syrian rebels, ask them, nicely, to figure out a way to get Henry Badowski’s Life Is A Grand into a digital second life.  It will make your day, as rediscovering it today made mine.

Bowie Ends His Silence With A Big Bang

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 8, 2013 by johnbuckley100

There’s a story, maybe apocryphal, that when Richard Nixon asked Zhou Enlai what he thought of the French Revolution, he replied, “It’s too soon to tell.” May we thus dare venture an opinion on Bowie’s The Next Day — that it’s not just the best thing he’s done since 1979’s Lodger, but may in fact be the most wholly satisfying album of his entire career — without having to wait 200 years to know for sure?  After a solid week of listening to it streamed through the iTunes Store, we’ll take our chances.

To place what an unexpected pleasure it is to listen to The Next Day, it helps to remember that the last time listening to Bowie made us grin from ear to ear was in the climactic scene in Inglourious Basterds, as Shosanna prepares to burn the theater down, and Tarrantino cribbed from the terrible movie Cat People to play Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” as the soundtrack to imminent conflagration. It’s not a particularly good song, though by the early ’80s, it seems like it was about as exciting as Bowie could be.  Yet in the context of Tarrantino’s movie, it was hilarious, and gave us a jolt.  But it was also a sad reminder of how much Bowie really mattered to us in the 1970s — during that string of pearls that began with Hunky Dory and did not end until his final fling with Eno in Lodger.

The return of Bowie to relevance and greatness reminds us, actually, of how exciting it was in 1997 to hear Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind.  Good Lord, we thought, as it came on the radio, he still has it, little knowing that Dylan would go on to create at least two albums that rank with anything he did in the ’60s.  And so we hope it is with Bowie, that upon his return at this level of excellence, as a 66-year old, post-heart attack senior citizen, he can keep producing at the level of The Next Day.

Imagine what it would be like if the Rolling Stones came back, right now, with an album as good as Exile On Main Street.  They won’t — they can’t — because for all their narcissism they don’t take themselves seriously enough.  Bowie does, though, clearly.  If he never produces another record, having produced The Next Day, he will have redeemed three decades of subpar performance, capped by a Rip Van Winkle disappearance and return.

When it was announced in January that Bowie was putting out a new record, and the single “Where Are We Now?” was released, we were underwhelmed.  It sounded like something cribbed from the Berlin Trio — the albums Low, Heroes, and Lodger — that he produced with Eno as collaborator and helmsman.  In context on the album, however, “Where Are We Now” is really great.  Next up comes “Valentine,” which is as pop-chart worthy as anything on the overtly commercial Let’s Dance, and if it had been put out prior to February 14th, would have been playing everywhere.  That Bowie chose to reintroduce himself with the more somber, less catchy “Where Are We Now” shows how important his return really is for him.  This record is not about scoring a hit.  It’s about reasserting his claims to greatness.

Most of The Next Day would sound completely at home on a compilation of unreleased tracks from the period beginning with Station To Station.  He even has Earl Slick playing lead!  What is better about the new album than even albums like Heroes is how well the melodies coalesce, how little he seems to strain, how natural his singing is, even at this age.  

The Next Day is the return of a master to a form that we never realized he hadn’t quite yet hit.  How strange it is to introduce, say, a teenager to Bowie and want to start here, not with Ziggy Stardust.  200 years from now, when the verdict really is in on Bowie, we bet the rock historians still start with Ziggy and Alladin Sane, because of course they will gravitate to Bowie as theatrical persona and performance art.  But if you really want to vector in on Bowie’s peak musical performance, we find it bizarre to say, we think you’ll start here.

Rick Moody’s Overlong Essay On Brian Eno Is Almost Pitch Perfect

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 22, 2012 by johnbuckley100

So the synchronous publishing of Rick Moody’s nearly endless but well-worth-the-effort essay on Brian Eno’s long career just as an ice storm hit D.C. provided us head-nodding entertainment and a wonderful distraction from the bilious news that Newt had taken South Carolina.  We admire obsessives, and a 9000 word essay on Eno certainly qualifies.  What we liked the most was we agreed with almost every word!  Okay, Moody forgets to praise sufficiently Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy. (That’s the Eno album that launched 1000 imitators from, strangely enough, Joy Division to Garbage to the New Pornographers.) And he perhaps fails to give sufficient props for what Eno did  for the Talking Heads on More Songs About Buildings And Food, not to mention his seeming to have missed that great Eno/Cale collaboration that produced “Been There, Done That.”  We’d be willing to forgive his failing to mention the great Robert Wyatt collaboration with Eno that produced the brilliant “Heads of Sheep” if only he’d tell us where we could download “Seven Deadly Finns,” which although it has long disappeared, is still the only Eno song ever to crack the upper reaches of the British charts. But he views Eno’s four 1970s pop albums as a cultural high point for Western Civ, understands that those Lou Reed albums with Bob Quine were the ones that mattered, slags Coldplay, worships Radiohead, gives John Cale his props, etc.  And he turns us on to an Eno-sponsored iTunes app (Bloom) that is more fun than our laminated Oblique Strategies cards. We herewith go on the hunt for all Rick Moody first editions.  And Tulip Frenzy offers to adopt him as kindred spirit.

Were Brian Eno and Robert Fripp The Artists Of The Year?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on December 28, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Leica M9, 35mm Summilux, With Floating Element

It seems odd that so much of the music we listened to this year had one critical link in common: it made us think of Eno and Fripp.  Not in any general way, but specifically, as so many of the year’s best songs could be linked to something Eno produced with his chum long, long ago.

The pattern started early.  In January, when Wye Oak’s Civilian was released, the song we listened to the most was “The Altar” — which sounded like it was recorded about ten minutes after Fripp laid down his solo on Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire” on Another Green World.

We have loved albums by A.A. Bondy, Kurt Vile, and The War On Drugs — all of which seemed like they’d been recorded under the influence of, in particular, Eno and Fripp’s Evening Star.  It was as if the most familiar touchstone for ambient music was that one incredible moment when Eno and Fripp lulled away migraines with soft waves lapping from a placid sea.

Near the end of the year, we got into Atlas Sound, the highly interesting side-project by Deerhunter front man Bradford Cox.  His song “Doldrums” sounds like he just added vocals to a track laid down by his forebears.

Weird.  In a year notable for the originality of so many artists — White Denim, for example — all roads seem to lead back to Fripp and Eno.  It was as if Evening Star was the point to which all compasses were raised.

Citay Updates Fripp and Eno For The Modern Age

Posted in Music with tags , , on July 11, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Just as the 1964 Worlds Fair seemed so spanking new in its evocation of the future, only to leave Queens with rusting metal and anachronistic architecture, there once was a time the coolest thing on Earth was the collaboration between Brian Eno and Robert Fripp.  That was a long time ago now, and though aspects of No Pussyfooting and Evening Star are every bit as relevant today as they were in the late ’70s, it does seem like these were remnants from a prior age.  You can still hear Eno’s mid-Seventies run of classic art-pop echoed in the choruses of the New Pornographers and likeminded archaeologists, but Fripp not so much.  Until we stumbled across the albums by San Francisco’s Citay.

Thanks again to Uncut‘s samplers, we’ve been playing Citay’s two albums — Dream Get Together and Little Kingdom — on airplane flights and mornings when we can wake up on our own terms (listening to music, not rushing to work), and they’re pretty great.  Not simply instrumentals like the Fripp-Eno collaborations, they’re more like Eno albums with a strong Fripp presence.  In some cases, the dual guitar figures become so baroque and intertwined, the music is too rich, like trying to subsist on a diet of chocolate cake.  But if you, like me, wish that Eno was still making pop records on his own, or collaborating with his crimson king pal, you’ll love these ‘uns.

Byrne and Eno’s “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today” Is A Remembrance of Things Past

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on October 12, 2008 by johnbuckley100

When David Byrne and Brain Eno last collaborated, there were no Pro Tools, no digital recording, no Internet to email files back and forth across the cyberpond that separates New York from London.  This ghost of an album in this late age of Bushes bears little resemblance to their last outing,  My Life In The Bush of Ghosts.  That one was a really interesting meld of Byrne’s musicianship, Eno’s studio genius, and found sound snippets, from a pentecostal preacher (“Help Me Somebody”) to an Egyptian folk singer (“Regiment”.)  It was the beginning of the ’80s and both Byrne and Eno were in prime form, as the Talking Heads reached their critical and artistic peak and Eno was about to embark on his collaboration with U2.

It’s not that the years haven’t kind to them both.  Byrne’s resisted the reformation of the Talking Heads and, for more than 20 years, continued an interesting, if suboptimal solo career.  Eno’s never lost relevance, and his published diary from a few years back (A Year (with Swollen Appendages)) showcased a life as peripatetic as a character in, well, an Eno song.  But still.  Byrne’s albums made you miss the Talking Heads.  Eno’s collaboration with John Cale tilted heavily in the latter’s favor, and his recent solo album produced one song, “This,” that was worthy of his ’70s masterpieces.  In fact, one could be forgiven thinking the best Eno song since Before and After Science was Robert Wyatt’s “Heaps of Sheeps.”  No matter how wealthy, or fulfilled, each of these multitasking brainiacs may be, as solo rock musicians, each of these guys could use a comeback album.

And they utterly pull it off.  The best way of describing Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is that it’s a great Talking Heads album in which Byrne and Eno have cut out Jerry and the Tom Tom Club. Melodic and sweet, like an Eno album, jaggedy shards and glee club choruses, the hallmarks of past work by each. All songs sung by Byrne, gloriously produced, of course, and utterly contemporary.  30-year old lightning caught in a Smart Water bottle.   It makes rumors of that Roxy Music reunion, with Eno collaborating with Bryan Ferry, all the more enticing.

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