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Monthly Archives: May 2005

DJ Krush, In Situ

Belatedly, a quick mention of the DJ Krush show a month back in San Francisco. It was Japanese turntablist Krush’s second time through town (at the same venue, no less) in just over half a year, but those two shows couldn’t have been more different. On September 29, 2004, at Club Mezzanine, just south of Market Street, he’d brought with him performers who’d graced his most recent album, Jaku, doing a brief set each with a pianist, saxophonist, shakuhachi player and rapper. He’d mentioned in interviews in the past that his shows in Japan were much more involved than his U.S. shows, which tended to be DJ sets. The September performance finally brought that Japan format to the U.S., but the end result seemed a bit tentative; perhaps a nearby hall like Yoshi’s or Great American would have better served the music than did the cavernous Mezzanine. There were great moments, especially when saxophonist Akira Sakata chanted with deep concentration at the opening of their duet, but given the silences between each pairing and the low volume level, it was lacking.

On April 29, 2005, on his way to the Coachella Festival in Southern California, Krush returned to San Francisco for a solo gig, with the spotlight entirely on him, and the volume raised to earplugs-only extremes. He was directly preceded on stage by Relm (Mike Wong), a nimble DJ with the set list of a bar mitzvah (Jay-Z, the Peanuts theme, Michael Jackson) and an interest in mixing video live. Relm concluded his appearance with a light reworking of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” accompanied by a video in which he flashed the lyrics on cue cards, a la Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Then Krush, a slight man in a wide-brim hat, appeared, continuing the theme by operating heavily on a jazz-fusion cover of Lennon’s “Imagine.” The contrast emphasized the two men’s differing concerns. Relm takes familiar music, often remixed to begin with, and sews it into a continuous, party-oriented routine. Krush on the other hand plays largely his own music, and when he’s playing someone else’s, such as the Lennon cover, he cuts and filters it until he’s taken full possession of it. He played for an hour, working in music from Jaku and focusing almost entirely on the album’s vocal-less material. Only in his encore did he pull out the rap songs, like “Nosferatu” (featuring Mr. Lif). Working almost entirely from one turntable and a mixer, he emphasized the lush, underlying rhythms of his music. The April show hit a promising balance, not as envelope-pushing as his live duets with non-electronic performers, but not as pop as his song-form material. He was very much in his element.

Now, a brief aside: I visited Japan for a week last year, in late December. It my first time, and I was on a business trip, which left no opportunity for a concert, just a little record shopping and sightseeing. I haven’t traveled without a copy of Krush’s album Kakusei since it was released, in 1998, though of course the arrival of personal MP3 players has made it possible to carry far more music with ease, so that essential record has since been supplemented with his Jaku, Strictly Turntablized and Code4109, plus some live recordings. I was listening to Krush when I had my third view of Mt. Fuji. The first two had been highly stylized photographs on advertisements for beverages whose contents and brands I didn’t recognize, but on the train from, if I remember correctly, Chiba into Tokyo, Mt. Fuji came into view for real, with the spare beats of Kakusei rumbling in my skull. (More on DJ Krush at his homepage, mmjp.or.jp/sus/krush.)

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Evan Parker Remix MP3s

Amsterdam-based musician Robert van Heumen visited San Francisco last month. He documented the trip with an overview of his stay and, all the better, nine MP3 files. On three, recorded at the Lab and at Mills College, he plays with Roddy Schrock (whose website, fundamentallysound.org, mentioned Heumen’s travelog, found here). Others feature Laetitia Sonami and Michel Waisvisz, together and solo. The highlight is a piece by Joel Ryan, in his own kind of collaboration, in that he’s mixing a recording of saxophonist Evan Parker. There are two versions, one recorded at the Lab, and one at Mills. Now, Parker’s a saxophonist who essentially mixes himself as he plays, virtually taking his instrument apart as he wrings sound of it by any means necessary. Midway through his eight-minute Lab dissection of Parker, Ryan appears to lay some of Parker’s music bare, a cycle of circular breathing in which a melody seems to peep its head out of the intense rhythmic patterning. Otherwise, there is even more in Ryan’s vision of Parker than Parker himself could accomplish on his lonesome. Snippets of sound bound against each other, echoes take loft like skittish birds, tones are warped and stretched like taffy, and harmonies develop as if in a pressure cooker. Check out RvH’s travelog and files here. (It being a small world, RvH has contributed to Aaron Ximm’s One-Minute Vacation series, the subject of several Disquiet Downstream entries, including yesterday’s; his was on Valentine’s Day of this year. Visit Ximm’s project at at quietamerican.org/vacation.html.)

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Quiet American MP3s

The latest from Aaron Ximm‘s One-Minute Vacation series, field recordings submitted by volunteer contributors from around the world: a beach in Korea on a moonlit night (May 23), a protest march from earlier this year in Boston (May 16), a pastoral scene in Greece (May 9) and some bagpipe jamming in Puget Sound. Those and more at quietamerican.org/vacation.html.

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Flores-Mystified MP3 Album

After an initial track of deep foreboding, and deeper silences that seem to confirm ill fate, Rafael Flores and Mystified‘s collaboration, Intrigue, on the Webbed Hand netlabel, ventures in several directions. The second track adds a voice to fill the gaps, as well as the analog flutters of 1950s science fiction films. And then things really get interesting. There’s what appears, by the titles (“Mineral I,” “Mineral II”) and the rush of water, to be a transformation of a field recording into a tumble of shudders and a low riding hum that makes that opening track sound like a spring breeze. There are also wild, synthetic storms to be heard (“Manantial Que No Cesa”), bleepy exotica (“Hello Stations”), white noise (“Buzzbase”) and much more. The album’s two keepers suggest its breadth between them; there’s the dreamy passing of old trains on “Convey,” which runs in place like a recurring nightmare, and the filmic arc of “Vera + Cruz,” which opens with a surprisingly dramatic chamber string section and then proceeds to descend below a pipe organ’s lowest stop. What holds it all together is an emphasis on desperately slow rhythms, ill-gained found sound, and a refreshing lack of concern for fidelity. Get the album at webbedhandrecords.com. More info on Rafael Flores at soundsense.blogspot.com. More info on Mystified (aka Thomas Park) at mystifiedmusic.com.

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Weekly iTunes MP3

Sometimes you do get what you pay for. Take the weekly free downloads in the iTunes Music Store. Most (heck, almost all) are missable, dismissible, entirely mistakable for some other half dozen generic singer-songwriter (or earnest rap, or desultory r’n’b) songs whose names you cannot recollect either. But on a rare occasion, iTunes delivers a winner, such as today, when its email newsletter announced that the single of the week comes from rapper M.I.A., born in Sri Lanka, based in London, hailed in music circles that hunger for the next Dizzee Rascal, the next British hip-hop “it” export. Her first single, the roiling “Galang,” in a three-minute-plus radio edit, would be entirely computerized robot funk, were she not rapping through it like a sweaty ghost in the machinery, and since she’s so intent on hearing her staccato syllables enmeshed with the gearshift rhythms, shouting out “purple haze” as an entreaty to classic rock fans looking for a new thrill, since her verses are even less comprehensible than most of Rascal’s… anyhow, she’s at one with her production like few rappers, who generally seem like guest stars on their own albums. If you’ve got iTunes, this link will take you there.

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