avant-garde Archive

Album Review: The Residents’ Commercial Album

Ex-Turtles and Mothers vocalists Flo and Eddie (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan) used to have a nationally-syndicated radio show. One recurring component of the merry duo’s program involved spinning records by some of their musical peers. The thing is, they wouldn’t play anywhere near the whole song: after they felt like they had given listeners

Best of 2014: Concerts

One of the many pleasures associated with living in the small mountain city of Asheville NC is access to great live music. I grew up in the 70s and 80s in Atlanta, where going to a concert often meant traveling to a sports arena, and watching the tiny performers from the nosebleed seats (where you’d

Honeymoon Hundred-word Reviews, Part 3

I’m on my honeymoon this week, so I thought it would be a good time to offer up some backlog-clearing entries in my occasional series of Hundred Word Reviews. And though the musical styles are all over the map, there’s a theme of sorts this time: each of the acts reviewed has been covered previously,

Album Review: Magma — Zühn Wöhl Ünsaï / Live 1974

To some – okay, to most – the idea of a progressive jazz-rock group performing music in an obscure language of their own making might seem, laughable, pretentious, or…laughably pretentious. But science fiction based concepts weren’t all that unusual for bands of the 1970s, especially European prog outfits. So if one can set aside reservations

Album Review: Sun Ra — A Space Odyssey

As Kris Needs notes in his excellent and detailed liner notes for A Space Odyssey: From Birmingham to the Big Apple – The Quest Begins, Sun Ra was a practitioner of “garage jazz.” Today (May 22 2014) would have been the 100th birthday of the man born Herman Blount, though once he rechristened himself Sun

Festival Review: Big Ears 2014, Day 3 (Part Two)

The final set of performances we took in at Big Ears 2014 were all centered around the work of minimalist composer Steve Reich. It was all deeply thrilling, visceral, emotional stuff, the kind of thing that’s quite difficult to put into words. It might sounds like a cop-out to say so, but this is music

Festival Review: Big Ears 2014, Day 2 (Part 1)

Marc Ribot (Again) The second day of Big Ears 2014 kicked off with a most unusual event: Marc Ribot seated in total darkness, armed with only a classical acoustic guitar. Above him on the Bijou stage was a projection screen, upon which was shown Charlie Chaplin‘s 1921 silent film, The Kid. Ribot’s charge was to

Festival Review: Big Ears 2014, Day 1

Dean Wareham We arrived in Knoxville in plenty of time to grab front-row seats in the beautiful Tennessee Theatre. It certainly helped that attendance for Wareham’s set was light (the venue filled in pretty well as the performance got under way). A relatively low-key performance free of any sort of visual effects, Wareham’s set included

Book Review: Lunar Notes

Lunar Notes is not a Great Book, nor do the requisite few hours spent with it reveal anything that suggests the author’s intention that it be so. What it is is a look into one man’s experiences as a member of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band during their most musically fertile period. In this slim and

Album Review: The Residents — Mush-room

Though clearly not the only path, a common direction for a recording artist to follow is this: record and release accessible works, and then – as a loyal fan base is established – develop more challenging, esoteric works. The thinking is that the fans will follow. But there’s never been anything conventional about The Residents,