Sunday, May 16, 2010

Groovin' the Moo 2010 - Canberra

It was a festival in Canberra. A festival. In Canberra. A festival. In Canberra. I might have paid $90 to bash my head against the inside of a porta-potty just to support the idea of a FESTIVAL in CANBERRA, but the lineup was sufficient that I didn't have to.

Spoon brought it as usual, and I was impressed by Tegan & Sarah's simple yet exacting pop, but less so with Vampire Weekend - I just don't care for their music.

The event was organised excellently. In contrast to the abortion that was Soundwave, the area was more than sufficient and the food and drink vendors were many and various. I hope the Canberra leg of Groovin' the Moo was popular enough to justify it returning in the future, but doesn't get popular enough to ruin it. If I want to tempt heatstroke while pushing my way against a tide of pissheads to get to the end of a long queue for a bottle of water, I'll go to a festival in Sydney.

Silverchair performing "Ana's Song (Open Fire)" during their hits-laden set:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Swizzle Relizzle

I want to make my non-readership aware of the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund. It's a non-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing financial assistance for musicians in need of medical care. I'd love to see the organisation be a well-known resource for musicians in need of mental health care if there's even a chance that it would prevent suicides such as those of Mark Linkous and his friend Vic Chessnut, but it's having enough trouble just keeping afloat right now. Linkous' family is accepting donations in lieu of flowers to be donated to Sweet Relief and the organisation helped out Chessnut with his physical health care in the mid 90s by means of a tribute album.

You've probably heard Pearl Jam's cover of Sweet Relief founder Victoria Williams' "Crazy Mary", an and and off live staple of theirs; the first compilation's profits went towards her own medical expenses. Here's a clip of a performance of that song:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Four Tet - There is Love in You

There's a 12 second track in the middle of this album called "Pablo's Heart" which consists entirely of an in utero baby's sampled heart beat - I assume Pablo is Kieran Hebden's then unborn son. If that's the case, the early days of the Olsen Twins pale in comparison with this blatant exploitation. Poor Pablo will have to endure cries of "hey, it's that heartbeat kid!" for years to come. Those twelve seconds will define him, even though any doctor who hears later samples of his heartbeat will be able to tell you that it's much stronger and measurable by a stethoscope. I hope he at least sues for royalties on the grounds that the sample was used without this authourisation.

But let that not overshadow the fact that there is a new Four Tet album, because Hebden likes to take his time in between those things. The cheesy "folktronica" tag is less applicable to There is Love in You, as the beats are straighter and it's full of sampled vocals and digital glitches, but just when you think it's going to be an entirely non-organic affair, some free range guitar shows up towards the end. There is Love in You begins and ends exceptionally strongly, but lacks variety and dynamics in comparison with previous Four Tet albums, suggesting Hebden might have been better off making an EP out of the best four or five tracks and aiming to release a new full length later in the year. It's still, however, a worthy if not exceptional entry in his catalogue.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bill Callahan - Rough Travel for a Rare Thing

You couldn't walk far without tripping over a live album in the 70s and 80s. They were quickly made and usually ugly, usually featuring an immodest photo of the performers on the front and a tracklist and very little else - sometimes not even the venue or date - on the back. Many were unceremoniously transferred to CD in the 80s and can be found for $5 in bargain bins; the original vinyls are even cheaper. The fact that hardly any of them ever sold in great numbers didn't seem to matter, but now that anyone can make a bootleg and soundboard recordings aren't hard to come by, they're finally becoming less common. Some live albums are actually very good, and Rough Travel for a Rare Thing is one of them. If we gain nothing else from the fact that there is now an official Bill Callahan/Smog live album, it's that the excellent show it documents, from a small club in Melbourne, is now beknownst to more than just a few hundred Bit Torrenters who may have already downloaded it.

So what makes a great live album? An excellent performance? Check. But of course any band capable of delivering such a performance should be able to do so on a regular basis, and presumably there are many shows that could have stood in for this one. Well chosen set? Check. Five of the eleven songs here are from the classic A River Ain't Too Much to Love, the final album released under the Smog name - it's therefore not a well balanced set, but the inclusion of any songs from that album is always a very very good thing. The set also features the great earlier songs "Bathysphere" and "Held". Creative re-arrangment of the material? Check. The instrumentation is all acoustic, yet "Bathysphere" still rocks and a clever string arrangement stands in place of the electric riff in "Held". Breaking down the divide between the performer and the listener? Check...er, wait. How does one do that in a way that a studio album doesn't, despite occupying the same medium and being just as "live" in your lounge room? Amiable banter between songs? There's hardly any of that here, but neither is there in Nirvana's Live at Reading, and both that and this are, in my opinion, two of the best official live albums ever released. No, the trick is that the divide between the best artists and their listeners doesn't exist. That was always the point with Callahan, but here you know the songs were recorded in the kind of venue you probably frequent yourself whether there's a band playing or not, and if you close your eyes, you can pretend you're there.

Related:
Bill Callahan - Dream River
Bill Callahan - Apocalypse
My 200 Favourite Albums of All Time

Sex, War & Robots