Dedicated to classics and hits.

Friday, March 02, 2012


INgrooves, a leading provider of digital distribution, marketing and technology services to the global music community, announced today that it has acquired Fontana Distribution from Universal Music Group (UMG). 


Ministry of Sound
Jesus- actually that's it- what a crap fest Fontana is.

          Anyway- that's a baller move for INGROOVES- maybe they can sign some labels up that aren't total crap.  I know my decision to leave Ingrooves as a digital distributor was actually based on their inability to provide any kind of physical distribution support- so maybe this will help them in that regard.  They certainly know their shit digitally but, from a label perspective, 90% of your revenue is ITUNES, EMUSIC, AMAZON and now SPOTIFY and the division is like 70 10/10/10, so it doesn't take that much to be a digital distributor besides a connection to those four entities

          It will be interesting to see if INGROOVES pursues Indie labels that are currently distributed by entities like IODA, the ORCHARD, SECRETLY CANADIAN and REVOLVER or whether they will just sit pat. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012


 I've been listening to two records in my care recently- the new Grimes record Visions and Frankie Rose's immaculate and top-selling Interstellar.

 Both records share a baroque sensibility and achieve an impact of sublimity that require comment.

 First, on the baroque sensibility.  Baroque is a neglected period of pre-modern taste, coinciding with the post-Renaissance era in places ranging from Italy, to Spain, to Eastern Europe, to the new world.   In it's initial iteration, Baroque was a description of architectural design, but like other words from architectural criticism (Gothic and Post-Modern to name two), the idea of Baroque style has long transcended the civic and religious Architecture of the 16th and 17th century.

 In recent times Baroque used as a description is often a negative, possessing the same negative connotation that you get when you call an institution "Byzantine."  Like the Byzantine usage in the context of bureaucracy, the modern meaning of "Baroque" i.e. "usually pejorative, describing [art] that has excessive ornamentation or complexity of line."

  That's a shame because I am quite a fan of the Baroque.  Really, who doesn't like excessive ornamentation or complexity in works of art?   I mean like all different types of music, but calling something Baroque is not an insult for me, quite the opposite.

  A key characteristic of Baroque in its original manifestation- the Architecture of the 16th and 17th century- Baroque was a truly international style, with examples all over the world.  This is a characteristic that it shares with the Modern style- not limited to specific places.

  To listen to Grimes Visions and Frankie Rose Interstellar is to hear the Baroque style manifested in popular music.   The Baroque sensibility is inherited separately by each Artist from different sources.  In the case of Visions, the proximate inspiration appears to be the Aphex Twin/WARP records canon from the last decade- including Autechre and Boards of Canada as important stylistic reference points.

  In the case of Frankie Rose, the source seems to be shared with the more chamber pop oriented sensibilities of Vivian Girls- of whom Rose was a founding member, as well as the advances on the close harmonies and layered vocals made on the Vivian Girls sound by Dum Dum Girls.

  Regardless of the various influences, the end result is similar in that both records are Baroque pop classics with their own charm, and more importantly, ENDURING REPLAY-ABILITY.   The number one problem I experience with music I buy is that I never want to listen to the record again after hearing it for the first time, and both Visions and Interstellar escape this designation: largely because of the Baroque- interesting- complex- ornamented- nature of the pop music contained.

  Both records are also sublime in the original "beautiful/terrifying" mode that was initially described in the late 17th century.  Today, sublime just means "super fantastic" but back then, to call something sublime was to comment both on it's beauty and fearfulness.  The classic example of the 17th and 18th century meaning of sublime is that expressed by a romantic poet contemplating the Swiss Alps, when he has to cross the Swiss Alps and he's afraid he will die in the crossing.

  Both albums create this sublime effect by pairing the Baroque song craft with a lyrical persona that is slightly cold, distant and removed.   Both Artists use vocal modification to create different layers of lyrics and effects, using their voice like another instrument.  The distance created by the vocal modification works to the benefit of both Artists.

  My sense is that contemporary indie Artists to often try to create intimacy with their Audience instead of inspiring fascination. All the social media work creates that intimacy but works against the inspiration of fascination among potential audience members.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Guide To Aesthetics
by Benedetto Croce
Translated, with an Introduction by
Patrick Romanell

  Benedetto Croce is an interesting cat- a guy who had a real 20th century Renaissance live, where he both wrote and acted in fields as diverse as philosophy, aesthetics, history and politics.  He lived between 1866 and 1952 and operated in and around Naples.  Luckily, Croce was on the right side of World War II- anti-fascist (even though he was on the WRONG side in World War I- opposing Italy joining the "good" guys in that fight.)

  I'm warming up to Italian themes and Italian thinkers after seeing the response the Italian market has given to some of my Artist friends.  Why, just today I was looking at the listing for the Italian produced Dirty Beaches 7",  TARLABASI at the Rough Trade UK Shop website. (DIRTY BEACHES TARLABASI)

  Croce was already on my reading list before that single came out- and it just so happened I found a copy of the slim Guide To Aesthetics at a library sale at the beginning of last month.   I believe this translation, by Patrick Romanell, is the standard version, but I don't know that.

 Croce's Guide To Aesthetics made it onto my reading list.  I should mention that the corresponding Italian title is "BREVIARIO DI ESTETICA"- according to the introduction in my copy the name was changed to avoid the exclusively Religious meaning that "Breviary" possesses in the English language.   The Italian edition was published in 1912. An important note about the publication history of Guide To Aesthetics is that it was written at the behest of Rice University- in Texas- he was supposed to deliver them in person but couldn't, because he was an Italian Senator and World War I, and things of that nature.

 Since it was consciously written for a bunch of Texas students, it is brief, and to the point.  Guide To Aesthetics possesses "this is the way it is" perspective on the broader boundaries of Aesthetics as a discipline while putting Aesthetics in relation to other disciplines, especially Philosophy and History.

  Croce traces out a century worth of argument (since 1912) in Guide To Aesthetics, beginning with his take on the difference between Romantic and Classic Art:

  [The answer to many questions about aesthetics] emerges as a result of examining the greatest contrast of tendencies that has ever obtained in the field of art...the contrast between romanticism and classicism.  Romanticism requests of art, above all, a spontaneous and unrestrained outpouring of the passioins- love and hate, anguish and joy, despair and elation.  It readily contents itself with, and takes pleasure in, ethereal and indeterminate images, an uneven style and one making allusions to vague suggestions, indefinited phrases, striking and hazy outlines.
  In contrast, classicism adores the tranquil mind, the learned style, figures drawn according to their type and definite in their contours, and is fond of deliberation, balance and clarity.  Classicism has a decided tendency toward representation, while its counterpoint has it toward emotion.  -.p. 23 Lesson One: WHAT IS ART?"

  Within 10 pages he's holding up a lamp to another huge 20th-21st century aesthetic issue- the silent but deadly role the discipline of Rhetoric plays in regard to modern criticism.

   Croce's third lesson lays out his personal theory of how the essential principle of Artistic appreciation is "Intuition."  Croce is best known for being a sponsor of the interpretive, expressionistic style of criticism that is common to readers of 20th century popular critical giants like Greil Marcus or a Lester Bangs.

  Guide To Aesthetics is a bridge between the 18th-19th century discussion of these subjects and the "Modern" approach of critical relativism that is embodied at the heart of every critic who cares about such issues.  BONUS:  THE WHOLE BOOK IS ONLY 80 PAGES.

  This book is a must read for Artist and Writers- buy it on your portable reading device- WORTH IT.


Monday, February 27, 2012


The Master of Ballantrae
by Robert Louis Stevenson
originally published 1889
this edition Dover Thrift Editions p. 2003

  Oh man do I hate the Dover Thrift Edition- you know it's a minor classic when you are reading a Dover Thrift Edition of a classic novel.    Stevenson's The Master of Ballantrae,  like Kidnapped, is a novel written about mid 18th century Scotland, written in the late 19th century.   Truly, the Scotland of the mid 18th century, with it's themes of Jacobite rebellion and civil war, was THE romantic setting of the novel from Sir Walter Scott's novels of the 18th century all the way through to Stevensons work a century later.

 Despite the constancy of Scotland in the mid 18th century as a stalwart locale for novelistic machinations, the novel itself underwent a notable transformation between the time of Walter Scotts work and Stevenson.    First of all, the novel established itself as a the dominant form of literature.

   Second of all, the form of the novel became both more self-conscious and more self-consciously stylistic.  18th century novels are anything but stylish- they all read like they were written by someone getting paid by the word and working without an editor- and those are the classics that are still read.

  Third- in between the 18th and 19th century the audience for the novel expanded along with the growth of literacy and the decline in costs associated with book publishing.

 Thus, in 1889 we get Stevensons The Master of Ballantrae- a theoretically "historical" novel which is actually both thematically complex, adventurous and entertaining in the manner that a contemporary reader expects a novel to be.  Only 160 page- The Master of Ballantrae moves between time and place: Scotland, pirates on the Atlantic Ocean, India and New York, with alacrity- the pacing is perfect, and the story is gripping.

 Like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, The Master of Ballantrae deals with the familiar literary theme of doubling- a theme I am happy to revisit in whatever form it takes within a classic novel.  Truly Stevenson, was a master of the form.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Show Review: The Fresh & Onlys, Disappears, Tropical Popsicle

The Fresh & Only's
Tropical Popsicle
@ The Casbah in San Diego, CA.

    Like a bear waking up from hibernation, the popular music event calendar is arising from the winter doldrums of the last four months (November through President's Day Weekend.)  As evidence- just look at the next week of shows in San Diego:

2/27 CASBAH - Veronica Falls, Bleached + DJ Mario Orduno Anti Monday League/Art Fag Recordings Presents
2/29 SODA BAR - Cloud Nothings, A Classic Education, Lanterns
3/2  BIRCH NORTH PARK THEATER (CASBAH PRESENTS) - Girls (SF), Unknown Mortal Orchestra
3/2  SODA BAR - Jamuel Saxon
3/3  CASBAH - Zola Jesus, Talk Normal, Spirit Photography
3/4  CASBAH - Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, The Feeling of Love, The Kabbs
3/10 IRENIC - La Sera, Cold Showers, Heavy Hawaii, Beautiful Boys Soda Bar/Art Fag Recordings Presents

  (1) Venue Notes
  (2) Artist Notes

   Last night was an early example of this phenomenon of a local music club scene awakening from slumber based on events occurring far beyond the provincial borders.  In this time and place, it's the annual migration of bands between the Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco this weekend and South by Southwest in the next couple weeks.  (3)

  I arrived at the Casbah in time to see 2/3s of the Tropical Popsicle.  Stand up drummer- band members with KORG stand up keyboards and guitars.  I think the guy at the center of Tropical Popsicle, Tim Hines- who also I believe fronted the Stereotypes- I think he needs to strip away the ornamentation and find really compelling songs that people love.  He needs to have an alter ego.  I kind of see him similar to Tim Lowman who has his solo stuff and then the band- Blackout Party- and what he's dealing with in trying to pick a project and really establish a viable touring act. (4)

  From what I gathered from Tim Cohen of The Fresh & Only's, the tour was booked because Disappears wanted to do club dates around their San Francisco Noise Pop appearance- The Fresh & Only's are also going to play SXSW, and they have a record coming out in September on Mexican Summer.   Considering there was a sold out GRIMES show at the Soda Bar, the turn-out was excellent.   I don't think Tim Mays made a bad decision- he probably could have had both shows in Grimes had put out that record a month earlier.

  Disappears is a four-piece Chicago rock band that happens to feature Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth on drums.   I honestly don't know if that is a blessing or a curse for a band with two lp's and 155k last fm plays- Sonic Youth is probably one of the top five most significant indie bands of all time, corporate embracing recent history aside.  It would be like Bill Clinton running for the house of representatives out of a Congressional District in West LA: Cool that he's doing it, great for the people affected, but certainly a step down from two terms as President of the United States.  Being the drummer in Sonic Youth is like being the President of the United States, in that analogy.

  During Disappears set I realized this was the first all male line up of rock bands I'd seen in a millenia.  It was funny to contemplate, especially since I'd spent the last 24 hours listening to the new Frankie Rose record, Interstellar, the new Grimes record on 4AD and Colleen Green's classic/amazing Milo Goes to Compton LP on Art Fag Recordings.

  I'm not one to weigh in on the gender politics of indie rock, but I did take a seniors/honors level seminar in Women's Political Theory when I was a senior in college, so I'm pretty familiar with the different debates.  The only point I like to add- and it's one I've been making here since at least 2007- is that the boys have had their chance, with their guitars, and their keyboards and their drums.  That has all happened.   Personally, I much more interested in what women have to say, because I haven't heard it a million times before- simply for the novelty of it, not for any deeper political purpose.

  I shamefully admit that my wife and I left during Disappears set. I thought about fabricating a review.  The truth is we'd already been out to a black tie affair earlier in the evening, and I had spent the previous day driving between San Diego and Palm Springs and back.  It was not meant as a slight to any of the bands- or to Tim- who actually put me on the guest list.  Sometimes life gets in the way, I suppose.


(1)  OK I have to admit that this sequence of shows makes me regret utterly abandoning the local music club scene for the last two years plus.   A couple of venue notes:

 IRENIC is a NEW ALL AGES VENUE IN NORTH PARK.  Fingers crossed there no noise complaint issues, because they people up in North Park are straight up bitches about that issue.
BIRCH NORTH PARK THEATER- Is still putting on shows.

(2)Artist  NOTES:

Zola Jesus has  3.2 million last fm plays.

GIRLS has 8.7 million last fm plays.

TY SEGALL released a singles collection in 12" format on GONER records in November of last year.  Ty Segall has less then 2 million last fm plays, but his audience is multiplied by his number of releases. His MELTED LP, released May 25th, 2010 on Goner Records, is still in the top selling releases chart on Revolver/Midheaven for the last month.  The singles collection and Melted  is in the top sellers for the last 3 months, and Melted is the number 4 seller of ALL TIME at Revolver/Midheaven.  Segall actually has 3 different record on the all time top selling list, an impressive achievement.  Part of that success- perhaps much of it- is due to the fact that the audience for garage rock buys records and goes to shows, and audiences for other types of indie rock do not.

(3) There is good evidence that other markets in Texas have well  figured that the week prior to SXSW offers a prime opportunity to stage their own festival.    This year, March 8th-11th the 35 Denton Festival- in the Dallas market statistical area- but also closer to Oklahoma City- is happening, and you've got shows like Dum Dum Girls opening for Jesus and Mary Chain, and Best Coast headlining a show with Atlas Sound.  There's also the very cool BRO FEST- on Sunday March 18th at the end of Bro Fest.  Best Coast even booked a San Antonio Gig. San Antonio!

 Naturally, Southern California is going to see a fair to large amount of those artists who play Noise Pop in SF between 2/23-2/25, Denton 35 3/8-3/11, South by South West 3/15-3/17 and all the bands will traipse back and forth across the country, stopping in humble burgs like our own fair city.

(4)   I think generally speaking I see people like that "stuck" with rather then helped by the band they are with, and would counsel people in that situation generally to break up the band and focus on recording some really fucking compelling songs on your mac and building the band up from there.

 If you've recorded the songs, you have a booking agent, and are getting living wage amount guarantees for your performances, by all means, assemble the band.

  There are so many reasons NOT to have a band- especially before the future is secure.  Someone like Tim Hines- I guarantee you he could knock out a bedroom tapes release in a minute, and I for one think that's a better use of time then the time and energy of assembling a rock band in the current economic environment for live music- in San Diego, everywhere.

Blog Archive