After the triumph of OK Computer, Radiohead fell into a creative tailspin -- and frontman Thom Yorke into a nervous breakdown. Exhausted from touring, hounded by press, and jaded by copycats, he escaped into the electronica scene pioneered by Kraftwerk and Warp Records -- fertile ground, the band discovered. Trading spacey rock for apocalyptic brooding, they teased their new sound not with singles or music videos but with innovative web streaming and cryptic, dreamlike "blips" -- winterlands, flocks of cubes, eyeballs, bears. After nearly breaking up over tracklist angst, they cut the kid in half. Thus fifteen years ago today, Kid A and (later) Amnesiac debuted, a confounding mix of electronic fugue, whalesong, pulsing IDM, drunken piano, and epic jazz funeral whose insights into anxiety, political dysfunction, and climate crisis would make it one of the most revered albums of the twenty-first century. See the documentary Reflections on Kid A for interviews and live cuts, or look inside for much more. [more inside]
Bernard Stollman, founder of the influential, otherworldly ESP-Disk label, has passed away this week at 85. New York Times obituary. The independent label was home to blazing, provocative recordings from avant-jazz greats like Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and Sun Ra, as well as underground rock outsiders like the Godz, the Holy Modal Rounders, and the Fugs. The label's discography is deep, strange, and still largely unexplored by everyone but hardcore music geeks (who tend to be highly passionate about it). From Stereogum: Remembering Bernard Stollman: 10 Essential ESP-Disk Albums.
Using his "file card" technique to create the title piece "Spillane" (whereby musical ideas written on note cards form the basis for discreet sound blocks arranged by way of a unifying theme), John Zorn forges an impressionistic narrative out of stretches of live-music jazz, blues, country, lounge, thrash, etc., and a variety of samples and spoken dialogue inspired by Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer detective novels (recited by John Lurie). - AllMusic [more inside]
Fred Anderson was a monster on the tenor sax. Fred Anderson was one of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and his "home court," the Velvet Lounge, remains a place for Chicago creative musicians to find welcoming audience. Fred died June 24 in Chicago. A wake will take place from 5 to 6 PM this Tuesday (June 29) at Leak and Sons Funeral Chapel, 7838 S. Cottage Grove, followed immediately by Anderson’s Going Home service. [more inside]
Robert Wyatt is not dead. In fact, he recently released a new album titled Comicopera. [more inside]
Tonic closes. At the end of a farewell performance, Marc Ribot and Rebecca Moore refused to leave the stage. They were arrested for trespassing, and hope to bring attention to New York's dwindling number of performance spaces for independent music. Previous discussions.
Anthony Braxton and the Tri-Centric Foundation | Wesleyan University recently hosted a semester-long 60th birthday celebration for visionary composer and musician Anthony Braxton. Learn about Braxton's foundation for musical exploration, and his peculiar system for naming his compositions; read a few of his dense and cryptic research papers on many subjects (full contents here); peruse a remarkably comprehensive discography of his works; read a brief and interesting interview with him, and if that doesn't feed your curiosity, dive head-first into an absolutely gargantuan interview with this important composer; listen to interviews with Braxton from 1971 and 1985; and, finally, give a listen to Composition No. 186, part of Braxton's "Ghost-Trance" series.
All Hail the New Jazz! Getting slightly bored with pop and looking to expand your horizons? Can't believe the musty Burns/Marsalis version is all there is to jazz? Try the "avant jazz" tradition whose central figures are the amazing bassist William Parker (so big and strong I've seen him pick up a bass and play it like a fiddle), David S. Ware (to my mind the greatest tenorman since Trane—see him live and you'll never forget it), and pianist Matthew Shipp (a frequent collaborator of both). Want a convenient guide to their recordings, with brief descriptions and (tacky but useful) letter grades? Here ya go—Tom Hull has great taste, and if he gives a record an A you can be sure it's worth hearing (and he gives you fair warning about somebody like Peter Brötzmann, who "sounds more like late Coltrane run through a blender by Einstürzende Neubauten: great heaps of noise unleavened by conventional musical signposts").